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  1. Preamble Some of you know that we have tried to sail with Royal twice before. First, we were booked on the Adventure of the Seas out of San Juan when our sailing was cancelled due to an unscheduled dry dock. We tried to rebook with RC, but we weren't able to work something out with them when we wanted to go. We sailed on NCL and while we had a decent time, NCL didn't win us over. So, when we found a good deal on a sailing on the Navigator of the Seas for February '19, we figured we'd give RC a shot. That was supposed to be her first sailing after her amplification and, if you remember, it was cancelled a week out because she wasn't ready. Scrambling at the last minute because we needed to get away last winter, we found a sailing on Carnival out of New Orleans at the last minute. I went in not expecting much, but surprisingly, we had a great time on Carnival. So much so that my wife and I agreed if we only sailed on Carnival again, we'd be happy. In fact, we had already booked this trip prior to the last cancellation and afterwards, I was tempted to cancel on Royal - you know, because I'm mean spirited like that. We kept the sailing and on February 2nd we finally boarded a Royal ship - the Liberty of the Seas to be exact. Full Spoiler Alert - we had a great time! I share that because I want you to know where I am coming from if I mention something I didn't care for or would change (it isn't much). In fact, I won't go as far as to say we are Royal exclusive, but we are Royal preferred. I'd sail on other lines again (and we've now sailed on the four major ones in the US Market [Disney, NCL, Carival and Royal]) but we'll look to Royal first. So much so that we've already booked our next cruise on the Symphony of the Seas for next January (shhh, that's a secret from our boys). I know at times I've been critical of RC on these boards, but I have to say that once we finally got onboard, the crew and the ship absolutely blew me away! Pertinent Information Crew: Myself, my better half (Julie) and my boys (George and Lucas [and yes, that is because I love Star Wars!]). Also joining us were my father-in-law and his wife (we all get along great - dad remarried after mom passed a few years ago and I have no idea what the correct term for your father-in-law's second wife that doesn't sound stupid. Loved having them along!) Ship: Liberty of the Seas Dates: February 2nd to 9th Itinerary: Galveston - Sea Day - Sea Day - Roatan - Costa Maya - Cozumel - Sea Day - Sad Day (aka get off the boat day). Other Notes: We're eating in the MDR (more on that) and Julie and I scored the $18 UBP mistake. Day One - Driving to Galveston - Friday, January 31st As a family of four, flights can be pricey. Thus, whenever possible, we'll drive to vacation. If we can get there in two days drive, then it's load up the family truckster and head out. We got the boys off to school and began the ritual pre-vacation cleaning. I love coming home to a clean house after vacation so we make sure and allocate time to do it just before we leave. Julie had been sick for a few days and I didn't want to get denied boarding, so I sent her to the doctor (yay antibiotics) and I had one last work obligation to go to (as a pastor, I had to make a quick hospital visit to pray with someone). Got back and loaded up the car, ate the last of the leftovers for lunch and went to get the boys from school. The plan was to leave home from just south of Des Moines, IA, and drive to Muskogee, OK. Google says it is about 7 hours so we hoped to be there by 8-ish after picking the boys up from school at 1 pm. We actually arrived a little after 9 pm with a stop for dinner in a little town in Missouri where I had the most amazing burger I've had in some time. Made it the Comfort Inn or Suites or something ... we usually stay at a Choice Hotel because it includes a decent breakfast and they aren't horribly expensive. After a fitful night of sleep, we were up and at it early ... but that will have to wait for my next post.
  2. We are a family of 5 (2 adults and 3 kids). We are flying into IAH on Saturday and then spending the night at a local hotel. I want to get a private SUV to take us to Galveston on Sunday. I did the estimate for our family and the costs are about the same for a private car vs shared shuttle. Has anyone used a car service and have a recommendation? I don’t want to do Uber or Lyft because of the size of our group and 4 bags. Thanks
  3. 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!
  4. We are booked for a cruise in January (western) out of Galveston on the Liberty of the Seas. It is our second cruise and my husband wants to see the ruins. What are the best excursions to take? Or better yet which ruins are the ones to see and the ones to miss? Besides the ruins what would be the next best excursion you recommend in Cozamel, Belieze or Costa Maya?
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