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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. Before I see the remarks....yes, were doing exactly what everyone says NOT to do, and we booked one interior room for my family of 4. Im curious what the room configuration will be? Im guessing my wife and I will be separated under each "bunk" bed for our boys? Anyone have experience with this?
  3. Hello All, we just got back from a 5-day Bermuda cruise on the Anthem of the Seas and I wanted to share my "lessons learned" as a "pay it forward" for all the great forum members who provided advice to me for several questions I posted. We are a 4 person family (42M, 39F, 13M, and 10F) and we had 2 balcony rooms booked on Deck 13 forward. I hope I can help some newbie cruisers with the info below! 1. Do Show Up Early on Embarkation Day: Our ship was schedule to leave from Bayonne, NJ cruise port at 4:30pm. Coming from NH, we drove to Danbury, CT the night before and stayed at a hotel (Did you know Ethan Allen owns a hotel?). That put us about 1.5 hours from the port. We got there right at 10:30am when the terminal opened and there was already a good number of cars in front of us. I dropped off the family and our bags and the porters quickly put our checked bags on the carts. I parked the car in the garage, met up with the family and headed inside to check-in. Check-in was painless, and we were literally stepping onto the ship at 11am exactly. They told us our rooms would not be ready until 1:30pm, so we mainly stayed in the outdoor pool until we could drop off our bags. We hit Windjammers at 1pm and they announced that all rooms were ready at 1:15pm. 2. Windjammers is great, but watch out for peak times if you hate crowds: As you probably know by now, Windjammers is a (extremely large) buffet that serves breakfast and lunch. I think 99% of all passengers can easily find several things they like on their diverse and plentiful buffet stations (vegetarian, vegan and GF too). However, it can get VERY crowded at peak times. One of those peak times is lunch on embarkation day. I think it was the only place open for that meal since not all passengers had boarded yet. While we were able to get our food fairly easily. finding an open table was tough! You really just need to hang out near a family that looks like they are wrapping up and pounce as soon as they get up. Hail one of the Windjammers employees to clean the table for you. The only times I would say Windjammers wasn't moderately to severely crowded was during lunch on the 2 days in port. 3. Prepare to be STUFFED: RCL should just partner with medication companies that have drugs for blood pressure, cholesterol, etc... cause I can guarantee you will come back at least 5 lbs heavier. We purchased a 3-night specialty dining package and got an extra night free from our Cruise travel agent (CruiseOne). We ate at Izumi (2 times), Wonderland, and Jamie's Italian. If you like sushi, Izumi is wonderful! At Izumi, you get a $35 credit per person... so we had $140 to use each night. We got at least 6 specialty rolls, a few makimono rolls and the sushi deluxe and easily stayed under. I think we had everything on the menu after the 2 visits. Wonderland is almost a dinner and a show... the dinner IS your show! Here, you don't order... they just bring you just about everything on the menu. It was pretty amazing. Jamies was great as well... they bring you samples of all their apps (charcuterie, fried rice & cheese balls, calamari, cheeses, olives, etc..) and then you choose a main and a dessert. I got the truffle noodles and they were amazing! We only ate at the main dining room once and it was OK. My wife's fish (Barramundi) was a little "fishy", but my fish (can't remember the name) was good. The shrimp cocktail were very small... but the birthday cake (RCL is celebrating 50 years) and the cheese cake was very good. FYI, all the specialty dining and main dining room have kids menus. I highly recommend visiting Solarium Bistro for breakfast (also a buffet, but much smaller than Windjammers... but WAY less crowded). You'll find all the common staples for breakfast. Café 270 is great for lunch and dinner/late night snacks (only certain nights is it open). Great paninis on pita bread, wraps, salads and dessert. Sorrento's pizza was great for late night craving, but they also serve breakfast (no, not pizza... mostly breakfast sandwiches). Room Service for breakfast is free as long as you order from the "Continental Breakfast" section. All other times its a flat $7.95 per order (regardless of how much you order... so ahead, get one of everything if you like... it will still cost $7.95 total) 4. To deluxe beverage package, or not to deluxe beverage package... that is the question: I was on the fence on this one up until a week before the cruise. I do like to drink, but I try to stay clear of everything with sugar. I'm not a big wine drinker, so just bringing 4 bottles on board with me was not that enticing. I pulled the trigger and paid the $50/day. My wife doesn't drink, but I was in a stateroom with my son... so I only had to pay for me. I knew from other posts that knowing that the drinks average about $10-13... just having 5 would be my break even point. Yeah, I ended up get my money's worth and then some. No, I didn't go on a bender and forget most of the hours of my cruise and end up naked in the engine room! It really wasn't that hard. They have mimosa and bloody mary carts setup for breakfast. Sir, would you like a Mimosa... why, yes please! Can I make you a spicy bloody mary with bacon and horseradish? Of course. How about a vodka, club soda and extra lime while you hang out by the pool? Sure! Can I get you a Jack and Diet Coke while you wait for the show to start? Yes please! As long as you pace yourself, be sure to eat and stay hydrated, stay away from sugar drinks (I never once ordered a pina colada or strawberry daiquiri, which were so prevalent I couldn't open my eyes without seeing someone having one), and keep any minor "overindulging" until after dinner (so you can sleep it off), take some precautionary Advil or Tylenol before bed... you'll do fine. Never had an signs of a hangover (mostly from following the rules above). I probably averaged 8-12 drinks/day. I know that sounds like a lot (and probably is according to my doctor!), but I did find that their drinks are a little "light" compared to your average bar. They do jigger pour every drink which means you are only getting 1.5 oz of booze per drink. Sometimes they would pour a little more. They also tend to give you a tall glass for your standard "spirit & mixer". So, if you order a "rum & coke" you are getting 1 shot of rum... and then like 10oz of coke. Of course, they are doing this to get you to take longer and therefore, order less drinks. Be sure to ask for a lowball glass. I also got my money's worth by ordering a few Patron Reposados tequila (which are like over $15/shot in most bars). Be sure to ask for a bottle of water with each drink. Even if you don't want it now, you can put it in your fridge and bring ashore when you visit a beach or go shopping. 5. Bring your Cruise Compass with you wherever you go!: The Cruise compass is a printout brochure of the next day's open times, activities, shows, etc.. You stateroom attendant will put it in your room every late afternoon. Review it, highlight it, and do some planning. I was kinda disappointed to see that RCL hasn't created a digital version of this yet. They do have the iQ app, but it only shows you your dinner reservations and the shows that require reservations. I'm hoping they enhance this soon as it could be a real value-add to their guests. We attended some great trivia sessions, info sessions on the ship and Bermuda pier and shopping, listened to some great small musical groups, super funny comedians, and attended some great onboard shopping sales. While it's great that RCL offers so much to do everyday, the hardest thing was making the schedule work! Many times we came up with a plan, only to realize we couldn't do it because we had a dinner or show reservation that conflicted. We found compromises and made it work the best we could. We definitely weren't disappointed or had any FOMO! 6. You kids will love the Adventure Ocean Club or the Teens Club: Both of our kids were excited about the kids and teens club. For those under 13, parents needs to check the kids in and out (for the kids 10-12, you can give consent to allow them to check themselves out). There is a morning, afternoon, and night programs they can join... all are included. The only exception is after 10pm its $7/hr per child (very reasonable) and they can stay until 1am. The counselors are excellent and they do fun and educational activities with the kids. The Teens club is free to come and go and my son made a some friends and they often went swimming and played in the Seaplex together. 7. Make your show reservations in advance for the ones you can... and make the other activity and dining reservations as soon as you get on board!: I made reservations for "The Gift" and "We will Rock you" a few weeks in advance on the RCL website. The only thing I couldn't make reservations for in advance for shows was "Spectra", but I was able on the second day of the cruise. We also made all of our dining reservations as soon as we got onboard. On the second day, we tried to make reservations for the iFly (indoor skydiving) but they were already booked up for the whole cruise! :( Lesson learned! Also, if you are like me and like to sit up front at the shows... show up about 30-40 mins early and you will have your pick of any seat you wish. They have waiters taking drink orders and usually have popcorn and snacks/candy available for purchase... so the waiting isn't so bad. We had front row middle for "We will Rock you" and it was awesome! Spectra was a great cabaret style show, but I think they had some technical difficulties with their vistavision (these are the 19 projectors that can make the 270 degree backdrop appear as just about anything you can imagine!) The robots with the flatscreens were working fine and are amazing! 8. Bermuda is great, but not a lot to do in the port: This doesn't mean we didn't have fun! We took people's advice and waited until the 2nd day to go to the famous "Horseshoe Bay Beach". Luckily, it was overcast and a little showery on the first day, and the second day was mostly sunny and 83 degrees! Of course, many other guests followed the same plan. Anyways, on the first day we decided to stay in the port area (Royal Navy Dockyard, aka King's Wharf) and check out the shops. We went to the clocktower mall and explored the shops. We also went into the "Diamonds International" store which was heavily marketed by the Anthem's Shopping Director (Paige). While seeing all the very beautiful jewelry and rare gemstones is great, the customer service is horrible if you aren't looking to spend a few thousand dollars. After seeing pieces that were $5k-$20k, I asked one of them what is the cheapest jewelry they had for sale... she said they had an earring set that was $1000. When I said you are still way above what I'm looking to spend... she didn't say "I'm so sorry, we don't have anything under that pricepoint".... Nope, she just turned around and walked away. How f'n rude! We ended up finding a much better service at a jeweler in the clocktower mall and my wife got a great sterling silver ring made with a stone made from the pink famous sands for a much more reasonable price. After about 2 hours, we pretty much saw everything in the port area. We went back on the ship (which can take about 10-15 mins as you have to go thru security), had some lunch, and then put our bathing suits on an went swimming at Calico Jacks. This is the black pirate ship that is literally the first thing you reach after getting off the dock area. It's a bar/grill that has its own swimming area. There's no beach... they have a ladder into the water and have plenty of foam noodles you can borrow so you can just float and relax. They also have a plank on the second level that you can jump or dive off of... as well as a giant inflatable slide. Unfortunately, they don't keep the slide wet... so almost everyone came to a halt before hitting the end of the slide. They charge $10/pp to get a wristband to use their water access. Rum swizzles were $10. We also checked out the "Frog & Onion Pub" for a quick snack and a "Frog Grog" and bought some swag. The second day we took a shuttle to Horseshoe Bay Beach. I wouldn't recommend paying the $35/pp shore excursion to the beach through RCL. They have public shuttles for $7/pp that are continuously headed to the beach. It's about a 20-25 min beautiful drive. Our driver the way out to the beach was great, he pointed out all the landmarks and gave details about the homes, resorts and golf courses. You can rent loungers, beach chairs, umbrellas and tents at the beach... but they are a little pricey. We got 2 loungers and it cost $44. They do have guys who will drag your lounges/chairs to wherever you want, but be sure to give them a tip (we gave him $5). The water was stunningly beautiful. Perfect temp! Some pretty good waves due to the weather over the past day, but nothing too bad. The grotto area to the right as you enter the beach was really neat. I would recommend water shoes/socks as it can be a little rocky in that area. While you aren't supposed to climb up the massive rock cliffs... there were dozens on the top of the bigger ones. Some of the smaller ones teens were jumping into the water. There is a bar/grill at the beach, but the prices are a little inflated (Burger & Fries for about $12). Recommend bringing waters with you... and if you can, pack some snacks (Café 270 will pack food to go). Be sure to leave the beach by 3pm to ensure you get back with enough time for any "unexpected" happenings. The shuttle drivers guarantee that if you get on one of their shuttles at 4pm... they will get you on the ship without issue, but I'm not willing to play with those odds! 9. Adults can take naps too! With shows/activities often scheduled to 1am, I strongly recommend trying to find a time for a quick siesta in the late afternoon before dinner. It will keep you fully charged to enjoy the nighttime events! Also, try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night if you can. No reason to go to Windjammers at 6am just because it's open! 10. Be sure to keep an eye on your account! Your Seapass card can be used to purchase ANYTHING on board.. and I mean anything! Be sure to keep an eye on your account (you can use the iQ app, but send you an email at the end of the cruise). You'll automatically be charged for gratuities $14.50/pp per day, but you'll also see all your other charges. Remember, things add up quick! 11. Keep an eye out for flash sales and good buys on the ship: I ended up buying my wife and gorgeous diamond tennis bracelet on the ship. It is stunning, very sparkly and she was smitten as soon as she saw it. The regular price was $195, but we ended up getting it for $99 during a sale. OK, of course at that price.. it's not a lot of diamonds, but lemme tell you.. it really sparkles and she has already gotten tons of compliments on it. They also have 2 for $20 T-shirts which make a great souvenir. They also have duty/tax free booze for purchase, but coming from NH where liquor is state-controlled, the prices were already comparable. If you buy bottles on the ship, they hold it until you disembark (except on the last full day, where you can take it to your room). 12. Most importantly, have fun!: It's your vacation! Try something new... or stick to your favorite activities... it's all up to you! I hope this has helped you. Please feel free to leave feedback and any questions that I might be able to help with. If I can't, I'm sure another forum user will!
  4. Looking for some advice — we are going on our first family cruise next year on Mariner of the Seas (my wife, 10 year old daughter, and me with what will be an almost one year old) and I have never booked anything more than an ocean view. Currently we are booked in a corner aft cabin balcony on deck 10 but there are hump balconies available on decks 8 and 9. I know the deck plans will change with the extreme refurbishment but which room would you recommend?
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