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Wonder of the Seas - 7 night Western Mediterranean - The Crazies with the Kids (August 28 - September 4, 2022)


berkeleykel
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I'm excited to be heading off to Barcelona with 2 kids and a mildy grumpy husband in 2 weeks to set sail on the Wonder!  I've decided to live blog because (1) I'm neurotic and (2) I didn't find many detailed blogs or reviews from people who have done a similar itinerary with small kids.  I will surely forget all of the details that I've spent hours pouring over within a few weeks of my trip, so want to lay it all out in real time for posterity.

My husband (T) and I are Americans living in London, and we are bringing our 2 sons: M (age 6) and A (age nearly 2, aka "The Monster").   M, T and I have been on one Royal cruise, a Greek isles itinerary out of Venice in 2019 on Rhapsody.  Before that M and I had been on a couple of non-Royal boats similar to Rhapsody.  So we aren't first timers but Wonder will by far and away be a new experience for us.

As a bit of backstory, we were originally booked on this itinerary on Allure in Oct 2020.  I actually found out I was pregnant with A only a couple of months after booking the cruise (himself born Oct 2020, so clearly that cruise was never going to happen for us, for multiple reasons).

I told myself after A was born that we wouldn't cruise again until he was 3+ and potty trained, and we originally had a different, and much more boring, summer land vacation planned this year.  But I couldn't help checking out cruises now and then, and originally got my husband on board by pitching a sailing on Anthem out of Southampton (only an hour away from us by train).  But since it was last minute the only connecting rooms left were interiors, and the more we thought about it the more we decided being stuck in an interior room all of the time with a sleeping toddler would be frustrating.  So I gradually socialized the idea of flying to Barcelona and stressed how amazing Wonder would be for the kids, and eventually got my way.

We had been booked in a 2 bedroom GS for Allure which I was really looking forward two given how well it works for families with young kids, but given this cruise was only booked about 4 weeks in advance the best we could find on Wonder was 2 adjacent ocean view balconies (well, the Ultimate Family Suite was still available for $30K but we gave that a miss). 

Despite the amazing itinerary, we picked this sailing mainly for the ship and proximity to London.  Our goal above all else is for this to be as relaxing as possible, which is a tall ask with a Monster and my FOMO combined with a huge ship and an all-star itinerary.  I'm going to try to balance seeing a few highlights on the port days with sleeping in some days and having enough time to fully enjoy the ship.

Itinerary:

Day 1 - Depart Barcelona

Day 2 - Palma de Mallorca

Day 3 - Marseille

Day 4 - La Spezia

Day 5 - Rome

Day 6 - Naples

Day 7 - Sea Day

Day 8 - Kicked off the boat whimpering in Barcelona

Between the kids and some unavoidable work intrusions, I'll have limited time to post while on the ship, so I plan to front load as much as possible in the next two weeks to describe our pre-cruise plans and plans for the port days.

Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions as I go along!

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Pre-departure plans - the boring stuff

COVID Testing:

For departures out of Barcelona, the current requirements are for an antigen or PCR test up to 2 days prior to sailing, including for kids age 2 or over who are fully vaccinated.  Since our cruise departs on a Sunday and my 6 year old is fully vaccinated, I've booked tests for me, T and M for Friday morning 2 days before embarkation.  We live walking distance to a DocTap testing location and have used them around a dozen times with good experiences, so we are sticking with what we know.  Tests were GBP 29 each for lateral flow/rapid antigen.  Under 2s are exempt from testing so the Monster gets off easy this time.  He will be sitting back laughing as his older brother, who is the worst COVID testing subject ever, will literally have to be held down by two people to have the stick stuck up his nose.  The day when he doesn't have to test any more will be most welcome to us.

Flight to Barcelona:

This is the most annoying aspect of the trip and the part that came closest to husband vetoing the trip entirely. Monster is DREADFUL on flights and we have PTSD from our last vacation on the 4 hour flights to/from Tenerife.  Plus airports in London (as I'm sure is true in many other places) have been struggling with staff shortages and high passenger volumes, resulting in delays, cancellations and general chaos. But like a mother conveniently forgetting the pains of childbirth to have another child, I'm ready to embrace all the stress to get on a big boat with lounge chairs and unlimited cocktails.

We are flying to Barcelona one day before the cruise.  I don't have any extra vacation days to tack on more time and we spent several days in Barcelona in 2019, so we don't plan to do any sightseeing this time around.

To make life a little easier we are flying out of London Gatwick, which is quick and easy for us to get to by train.  This prevents the headache of needing to sort out a car service to the airport that would provide car seats, and the anxiety lest the car show up without the right type of seat.  Also have I mentioned Monster is also DREADFUL in car seats?  Living in central London we don't have a car and he's only been in them a few times, and he will shriek his little head off nonstop for hours until he passes out from the stress and audaciousness of being strapped to a seat.  Gatwick also has a separate family line for security that makes the process a bit smoother with all the toddler junk we have to bring.

From Gatwick to Barcelona we have the option of two budget carriers, EasyJet or Vueling.  We've traveled with EasyJet many times and it's always been okay.  This time, booking only 4 weeks out, EasyJet didn't have good availability so we are trying Vueling for the first time.  We paid extra for front row seats for the extra leg room for Monster to squirm in (and a lack of seats in front of him to kick non stop), and for carry on and checked luggage and a priority check in desk.  All in, the return flights were an eye watering EUR 1700 round trip for 3 seats (Monster in lap as he is under 2, the better for our ears to be as close as physically possible to his screaming lungs).  This is about triple what we paid when we went to Barcelona back in 2019 (on Easyjet with similar seats/bags), which I imagine is a combination of booking late, summer high season, and post-COVID pent up demand.  The flights are just over 2 hours each way. 

Hotel in Barcelona:

As noted above we're only staying one night in Barcelona before the cruise (and flying back same day after disembarking).   Hotels prices were crazy ridiculous compared to our last trip here.  We're booked at the Citadines Ramblas in a one bedroom apartment, costing EUR 350 with a non-refundable rate.  The Citadines is a mid-range aparthotel chain with locations mainly in Europe and Asia that we've stayed with a few times (although not this particular location).  We'll have a kitchenette which will be helpful for the fact that Monster still demands a night time bottle of milk.

Method of transport to/from the airport to the hotel and cruise terminal is still TBD.

 

Next up: excursion plans.

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Where to begin with excursions? I want to do everything! But a few basic principles guided our decision-making:

  • We want this trip to be as relaxing as we can manage. No 12 hour port days and falling into bed dead tired afterwards.
  • We haven't been on an Oasis-class ship before so we want to reserve plenty of time for exploring the ship.
  • With the kids, trains > buses > cars/taxis.  We're very comfortable with train travel in Europe and it’s by far the easiest with kids.  Buses are okay but the Monster tries to run wild.  Cars are nightmares because Monster screams in confined spaces and my oldest gets car sick for long distances.  Anything long distance is out.
  • Group tours are tricky with a toddler who is unpredictable and a 6 year old who whines like a teenager when he gets bored.  So we prefer to go it on our own as much as possible. 

With this in mind, we have sketched out the following itinerary:

 

Day 2 - Palma de Mallorca

We've booked a Royal excursion for this one – “Mallorca Beach Transfer.”  This has us off the ship for only approximately 4 hours.  We will be bused to Palma Nova beach (30 mins drive each way, hopefully a bit less) and left to fend for ourselves.  We plan to rent loungers and there are a couple of restaurants and bars around for drinks and snacks.  We haven't been to the beach at all this summer so it was a must-do for me to have a family beach day on this trip.  I think the roughly 3 hours we'll have at the beach will be a perfect amount of time to get in our beach fix without killing my husband, who’s allergic to beaches.

I booked the transfer with Royal for the convenience of not needing to deal with taxis, but it comes at a steep premium (GBP 120 for 2 adults 1 child)!  I'm going to pretend I didn't see the price.

We should be back on the ship in time for a late lunch.

 

Day 3 - Marseille

We are turning this into a sea day and staying on the ship. With only 1 sea day on a 7 night itinerary I felt like we would get exhausted without building in a second one.  Marseille was an easy decision to axe between the choices because we've been to France a lot (though not to Marseille specifically) and it’s a pretty easy place for us to get to from London if we ever want to come for a long weekend.

Instead, I have rented a Casita for ultimate relaxation (aka not having to worry about reserving lounge chairs)!  This is probably a waste of money but I imagine we'll be coming and going throughout the day so it will be nice to have a set meeting place where we can leave some stuff, and it is supposed to come with a safe to leave our phones in while in the pool so we aren't constantly craning our necks to watch our stuff.  Cost was GBP 96 (this was the port day price, it goes up on sea days although no sea day bookings were left by the time I booked).

 

Day 4 - La Spezia

I debated Cinque Terre vs Pisa, but what made my mind up was doing a Google street view walk around of Pisa.  It gave off strong tourist trap vibes, and while Cinque Terre will probably be overrun with tourists as well, it at least comes with the benefit of lovely sea views. 

Our plan to is make a late morning start, departing the ship around 10, with the goal of being back on the ship within around 5 hours. But as the all aboard time isn’t until the evening we can play it by ear.  I’m hoping to walk from the port to the train station (which I *think* will take about 20-30 mins), but that will depend on how well Monster cooperates.  We may take a taxi if they are readily available.  

We plan to visit Riomaggiore and Manarola, two of the smallest of the five villages and the closest to the ship, given our limited time.  I’ve picked out a few options for lunch depending where we end up at the time.  The train timetable lists the train time from La Spezia to Riomaggiore at a brief 8 minutes and from Riomaggiore to Manarola at 6 mins, so we shouldn’t lose a lot of time to transit. 

 

Day 5 - Rome

Rome will be our longest day off the ship at close to 9 hours.  Aren’t doing an RC excursion in order to have the flexibility to deal with Monster as needed.  Given the distance from the port to Rome, I definitely wanted to take a train rather than a bus or car.  I booked the fast (48 min) train round trip and was able to book four table seats in the 1st class carriage for us, for a grand total of EUR 25!  I booked the tickets directly with the train line (IT - Trenitalia) about 3 weeks in advance.  Children were free with paying adults. 

We don’t want to be rushed in an attempt to get a glimpse of everything, so we are going to stick to the Colosseum and Roman Forum area only.  The train will take us to Roma Termini, at which point we will switch to the metro for a few stops to the Colosseum.  If we didn’t have young kids we would have walked that distance to take in the atmosphere on the way – it is only about a 25 minute walk. 

I booked the Colosseum/Forum tickets direct (CoopCulture | CoopCulture). You definitely want to book several weeks out because some ticket types and times were already sold out when we booked about 3 weeks in advance. There are several ticket options to choose from with various combinations of experiences and prices.  We chose the “English Didactic Visit for Individuals and Full Experience Ticket.” For EUR 34 per adult and EUR 12 per child (we were able to book a free ticket for the Monster, I believe the age cut off is under 5s), we will have access to the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill as well as a guided tour of the Colosseum (arena and underground).  Although I am hesitant of doing guided tours with the kids, this one is only 75 mins and I think it will be helpful in getting the most out of the experience.  I’ll probably hang out with Monster toward the back of the group and step out if he acts up.  The tickets are timed entry for the Colosseum tour but any time entry for the Roman Forum.

We’ll start off exploring the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill with whatever time we have (around 2.5 hours) before the Colosseum tour starts at 1:15 pm (there were a few times to choose from but I think the others were already sold out).  After the tour we’ll have a bit more free time to walk around the Colosseum ourselves, then we’ll take the metro back to Roma Termini for the train back to Civitavecchia.  We should get back to the ship with just over 2 hours to spare in case of issues with the trains. 

There isn’t much time for lunch built into the day so I’m hoping to grab some items from the food bar adjacent to the Civitavecchia station to have a small picnic at the Roman Forum and then we’ll try to grab something quick as we are passing through Roma Termini.  Unfortunately enjoying a nice leisurely Italian meal is one of the casualties of limited time and trying to make sure the time we do have in Rome isn’t too rushed or stressful.

 

Day 6 - Naples

This is our final port before our sea day on Day 7.  Of all of the trade-offs we made in crafting our excursions, this one hurt the most.  I am DESPERATE to see the Amalfi coast, but the travel time from Naples by bus or ferry, while very reasonable for adults, was just too long with the kids.  Instead, we’re going to keep it short and simple with an RC excursion – “Pompeii On Your On Transfer”.  The total excursion time is 3.5 hours.  We’ll be bused to Pompeii and back (around 30 mins each way) and then left to see the ruins on our own. Husband really wants to see Pompeii so I told him he needs to study up and serve as our tour guide.  We will try to pick up audio guides as well.

The excursion was GBP 24 per person for adults and child, little Monsters free. There were multiple times to choose from for the excursion. It doesn’t include admission to the Pompeii sites so we booked those directly (Pompeii Tickets - TicketOne ) (although the site is a bit sketchy, it seems to be the legitimate official source).  The tickets were EUR 16 per adult (including a small fee for advance online purchase), kids both free.  The tickets are dated but untimed.  I’m hoping buying in advance will save us some time upon entry because our total touring time will only be about 2 hours. 

Then it’s back to the ship where I’m sure the end of vacation dread will start settling in.

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@berkeleykel, can I just throw out a suggestion to you for your Cinque Terre explorations? We've done it twice and it's amazing.

First off, I can confirm that the walk to the train station is around the 20-30 minute mark. There's a bit of an uphill stretch on the way there but it's not too bad and, of course, it's downhill on the way back when you're tired. We were totally unable to find any taxis to take us there from the port.

We really loved Riomaggiore. Note that the main street is quite a steep hill and you might have to bribe the kids with an ice cream! 😁  I'm not sure if you'll be able to see the video (fingers crossed). If you can't, at least the pic (sorry not the best) will give you an idea.

 

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Something you might like to consider is taking a couple of beach towels and wearing your swimwear and going all the way to last village, Monterosso. It's really not that much farther on and it has a great beach with beach restaurants where you can enjoy a bite to eat and let the kids run around. Another benefit is that, because it's the first village on the way back, when you get on the train to head back the chances are you'll be able to get seats. The whole journey only takes half an hour but by the time the train gets to the second village on the return journey pretty much anyone who boards from there onwards has to stand.

These two pics are Monterosso. We didn't make it that far the first time we went and the second time we wished we'd known to bring our beach stuff!

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Hope this is useful. 😊

 

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  • berkeleykel changed the title to Wonder of the Seas - 7 night Western Mediterranean - The Crazies with the Kids (August 28 - September 4, 2022)

Thanks @FionaMG!  That beach looks amazing.  I have it down as our backup in case we have to cancel our Mallorca beach trip for bad weather etc.  But I don't think I could get my husband to even step foot off the ship in La Spezia if he smelled the potential for us to end up at a beach for the second time.  I might as well be luring him into a snake pit in his mind.

Thanks for the tip on the hill in Riomaggiore. There was already a zero percent chance we'd make it through the day without ice cream so I'll be sure to save that for an inducement for the uphill trek.  We'll bring the toddler carrier for Monster so I may need that ice cream to recover myself.

 

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7 days to go!  

I finished up the last logistical items yesterday so now it is just mainly the mountain of packing left.  This is the never-ending story -- for every one thing I cross off the packing list, I think of two more to add. 🥴

One of the final things I did was book transfers from the airport to hotel, hotel to ship, and ship back to airport.  I'm a huge lover of public transportation and would normally have taken the bus from the airport, but I think we'll have too much luggage to pull that off with 2 kids.  So I've booked cars for all 3 legs.  

While Barcelona doesn't require car seats for intracity transfers, the ride is about 30 mins so we'd prefer to book a car that will reliably show up with a car seat.  We booked with Sun Transfers which has pretty good reviews and a pretty seamless online booking process. They do meet at greats at the airport upon arrival. We were able to add infant and booster seats at the time of booking for EUR 7 each.  We also booked with Sun Transfers for the shorter 15 minute transfer from the hotel to the cruise port.  While we could probably hail a cab on the day and live without car seats, we were worried about timely finding one big enough for a family a 4 + lots of luggage.  Booking ahead was an expensive option at around EUR 210 euros total for the 3 legs in a minivan, but worth it to us for the peace of mind.

Some random things not yet covered:

  • T and I will have the UBP.   We may only break even most days but I like the mental relaxation of not paying per drink. M will deal with the free offerings mostly.
  • We also have 4 device surf and stream, 1 each for T and M, 2 for me (work and personal phones + laptop).  This was a high cost that I had underestimated, but I'll need to work occasionally and I can't stand playing hot potato of who gets kicked off. 
  • We have specialty dining booked for Mason Jar for dinner on Day 3 and 150 Central Park on Day 5.  We'll probably do MDR the other nights We have the early sitting at 6 pm which is perfect for the kids.
  • We're actually really looking forward to the Windjammer for most breakfasts and lunches.  As Americans living in the UK we don't come across American-style buffets often so for us it is a real treat.
  • I've pre-purchased $50 in arcade credits for each of me, T and M.  We are suckers for arcades and buying ahead saves quite a bit.  We'll probably go run through those credits by Day 2.

Hopefully I won't hit any major snags between now and embarkation so I will report back then!

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We board in 9 hours!!  
 

Some quick notes from our last couple of days:

- we tested Friday morning and had our negative results before we even walked all the way home. 

-we flew with Vueling for the first time. Their check-in lines were absurd, but probably to be expected for a bank holiday weekend (which I had completely forgotten about). We went into the premium line by mistake (only had priority not premium, so shouldn’t have qualified). But they let us go through anyway because otherwise we most definitely would have missed our flight out of Gatwick.  The agent’s decision to show mercy was like a sliding doors moment on this trip being successful or not!

-Our transfer was waiting for us at arrivals but without the car seat I had paid extra for (and one of the primary reasons I booked an expensive transfer in advance over grabbing a taxi). We’re using the same company to get to the port tomorrow so we’ll see if they improve, else I’ll probably cancel the return trip to the airport after the cruise.

-I’ll review the hotel after check out tomorrow but so far it’s been a good choice.

-Barcelona was HOT and muggy today. I greatly preferred visiting in spring. 

-Dinner was a complete miss. We love tapas and intended to go to Guell Tapas right at opening for dinner, but I had to work and by the time we got there the wait was too long.  We ended up walking into El Drac de Saint Jordi in the Gothic Quarter. Serve yourself tapas with cava.   Food was boring, cold, and small.  On the plus side, Wonder won’t have to work too hard to impress us with its food at this point. We are looking forward to our Windjammer lunch! 

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I can’t believe it’s Day 3 already!  Backing up to Day 1 which is already a blur):

I was happy with the hotel.  With the kitchenette we were able to pick up a few items from the huge market right across the street to make for breakfast in the room on Day 1, which made for an easier start to the day and allowed the husband and kids to sleep in a little extra.

We had a 10:30 am boarding time. We ordered the transfer to arrive at the hotel at 10 am.  The driver arrived a few mins early and was waiting in the lobby for us when we came down to check out. He had the car seat and booster seat as requested.  The trip to the port was supposed to take 12-15 mins but ended up taking around 20 due to traffic near the port. We arrived at 10:25 am. After security and checking in, we were on the ship just before 11. 
 

One note on checking in - the woman who checked our documents insisted that our <2 year old needed to have taken a COVID test. Thankfully I was confident that he didn’t or else she might have sent me into a temporary panic. But instead we were firm and eventually she checked with a co-worker to confirm he in fact did not need to have taken a test. 
 

Once on board we grabbed a table at Cafe Promenade. It was nearly empty at the time and we settled in while I connected to our Voom plan (which was quick and simple), booked our show times, and put together a list of times we would want to book the nursery for in the evenings. 

Next we went to Adventure Ocean to check in and make the nursery reservations for the week. They had all of the times we wanted free and even had times open for Day 1 had we wanted. Since people had boarded at Rome this wasn’t a given even with our early boarding time.  Note that on both the Barcelona and Rome embarkation days Adventure Ocean doesn’t open until 7 pm. 
 

Then it was to the Windjammer for lunch and to the rooms once they opened at 1 pm.  We hung around for a while to try to catch our attendant to ask him to open the balconies between our rooms.  We ended up calling housekeeping when we still hadn’t seen him by the time we were about to leave for dinner. 
 

In the interim my husband took my 6 year old down the Ultimate Abyss which he loved and insisted on going a second time. Due to my son’s age or size my husband had to go down with him, although in separate mats.  I waited at Playmakers near the landing area with the little and ordered our first cocktails of the cruise. One thing about this area that I hadn’t known about beforehand is that there is a climbing structure near Playmakers/Johnny Rockets which is a good distraction for kids for awhile. I’d estimate the ideal ages for it are around 3-8.  
 

We had the 6pm seating in the MDR. We had confirmed earlier in the day that our family of 4 was sat at our own table.  Looking around, most of the tables were smaller so I think most families we sat by themselves by default.  The dining room was also half empty the whole time (we were on Deck 3).  Food and service were good.

After dinner we saw InTENse in the AquaTheater. We had reservations and arrived around 30 mins early which was not necessary as there were plenty of seats free.  The kids and husband were captivated, although Monster fell asleep halfway through despite the noise.  It was excellent and I highly recommend for families with kids.  If you sit in the front two rows or dead center you will get wet!

We realized after changing into PJs that we hadn’t sorted milk for Monster. Husband found some at Starbucks but we were informed we could order it from room service for free, although I’m not sure if they meant that the service charge would be waived. 

And that was the end of Day 1!  Except not for me as I stayed up another 4 hours handing work (hence this post being delayed 2 days).  It looks like I’ll have to put in several hours of work a day throughout because things are so busy and the team is leaner than usual at the moment.  😬

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I guess you are still working.  What a bummer when you are on a vacation.  I hope all are going well but I think you will give me nightmares about my own kids when they were monsters.  I would have never done what you are doing - taking little monsters on cruises.  I did not visit a real restaurants until my kids could sit thru a meal without causing a scene.  That means I went 15 years eating a McDees and pizza joints.  UGH!  While I miss those days I am happy to be an empty nester.  So, you must be a super mom. Enjoy your monster.  He will grow up too soon. 

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Day 2

On Day 2 we docked at Palma and took an RC excursion to Palmanova beach. The excursion time was listed as 9:20 am to 1:20 pm. Our tickets said to meet at the Royal Theater at 8:50.  When we arrived we were able to get 2 free cans of water per deluxe beverage package which was good because we forgot to get any water ahead of time to bring with us. We left around 9:00 and walked a short distance through the port building to a double decker bus, which they packed completely full. The bus ride time was listed as 30 mins in the cruise planner but it seemed like much less.  We were dropped off right in front of the Hotel Tropicana and told to meet back there at 1 pm.  

 

The drop off point was right across the street from the beach. This is where we set up camp.  It cost €13.50 (cash only) for 2 loungers and an umbrella for an unlimited time, and they were readily available. However, this part of the beach did not have a life guard. We realised later that if you walked about 5 minutes along the boardwalk, you would get to a part of the beach with a life guard, public toilets (€ 0.50, change only) and public showers. There were several places along the beach to get snacks and drinks if you wanted. We got ice cream for the kids at a cost of €2 per cone at a little gelato stand. 

 

Almost everyone was timely in reboarding the bus and it took off at 1:05 pm.  Okay, everyone was timely but us. We were the last ones to board. Sorry!

 

Once back at the shop we went to the Windjammer for a late lunch, which was heaving.  We realised that buffets, despite our love for them, don’t work so well for families with multiple young children.  Since and adult has to stay behind, it takes four trips to get us all plates. We may look for easier options going forward. 

 

We grabbed some drinks from Boleros and at that point the family went comatose while I caught up on work. We again went to the MDR and again found the food and service good. We are MDR people. 

 

We had booked Voices for after dinner and planned to drop Monster at nursery and big M at Kids Club.  Unfortunately Monster became distraught when we tried to leave him.  I was a little annoyed that the staff member did almost nothing to try to comfort or distract him. She just sat him down and stared at him while he cried and said softly “it’s okay, it’s okay.”  He always cries for babysitters but they’ve always been able to calm him down enough for us to leave and then he’s perfectly happy about 15 mins later. As it was, we were forced to abandon the nursery.  We walked him around in his stroller to try to put him to sleep, but by the time he finally fell asleep (close to 10) we decided it was too late to bother leaving him. We tried to catch a game show at Spotlight Karaoke but the venue was small and we couldn’t hear at all from the back so we left. 

I had a few more hours of work to do late into the night and then it was time to rise and shine to grab our casita for our self-improvised sea day! 

If I had written this post 2 days ago I’m sure I’d have had something to add about the milk situation late at night again, but at this point I haven’t the slightest recollection of how we sorted milk that night. 

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4 hours ago, FireFishII said:

I guess you are still working.  What a bummer when you are on a vacation.  I hope all are going well but I think you will give me nightmares about my own kids when they were monsters.  I would have never done what you are doing - taking little monsters on cruises.  I did not visit a real restaurants until my kids could sit thru a meal without causing a scene.  That means I went 15 years eating a McDees and pizza joints.  UGH!  While I miss those days I am happy to be an empty nester.  So, you must be a super mom. Enjoy your monster.  He will grow up too soon. 

Some may call it being super mom, others headstrong and foolish.  We are making it work but I do fantasise about how nice it would be to just be my husband and me.  We have a long cruise planned for next year with my MIL watching the kids at home so I’ hopeful everything will come together for us to get away then.  

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Day 4 - La Spezia 

I got tied up with work this morning and as it was forecast to rain in the morning we decided to push back getting off the boat for Cinque Terre until around 12 pm. 

Lots of shuttle buses were waiting just outside the ship when we left. It only took about 5 mins to fill up and leave for a very quick ride to the cruise ship terminals. We saw one taxi but someone was getting in it. Instead we walked 2 blocks north to a bus station and took a local bus to the train station. We bought tickets on the DropTicket app (which I had downloaded ahead of time in case we didn’t see any taxis) for €1.50 each (children free). You could not buy tickets on the bus.  You have to board in the middle doors of the bus, not at the front by the driver.  The 3 bus takes you directly to the station but the 1 and 12 drop a short walk away. We took the 12 since it came first. 

At the train station the ticket machines had long lines that moved slowly. If you walked past these into the area near platform 1 there were several additional machines that no one was using. 

If you aren’t familiar with bus and train travel in Europe I really recommend this self-made excursion as a way to practice in a pretty low risk scenario. There are lots of trains and buses so if you miss one (or two) because you get confused (e.g. me on the return trip) you should still make okay time. 

We started at Manarola and had lunch there at a tapas style restaurant (bruschetta, meats, cheese and fruit but no pizza or pasta) called Nessun Dorma which had great views over the harbour. The restaurant has an app where you make same day bookings by getting a spot in a virtual queue that’s starts at 12:30 pm each day. I entered the queue at 12:35 pm and got 79th in line. We were sat around 2:20 pm. We thought the food and cocktails were good and while it was a well oiled machine the quality was better than your typical tourist trap. 

The day was super hot and sunny so we felt kind of miserable and M was whining continuously. With that plus our late start, we abandoned our plans to visit Riomaggiore and instead heading back to the ship after lunch.  We again took the train back and were able to get seats together. Once in La Spezia we again took the bus. I wasn’t paying intention and accidentally got on the 3 bus heading in the opposite direction from the port. But no harm no foul. After a couple stopsI notice the mistake and we got off the bus and crossed the street to the stop with buses headed in the right direction, and within 15 mins we were back at the port.

We were exhausted so stayed in the room until almost time for dinner.  We had dinner in the MDR. 

After dinner my oldest again went to kids club and we took Moster with us to watch Ice 365. He was pretty intrigued at the start but got a little scared at points. Her eventually fell asleep. We thought it was really good especially for show small the rink is.

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Day 3 - Marseille

Today we had a pool day planned and to hopefully make it extra relaxing I had booked a casita on the pool deck.  I couldn’t remember or find any details from my booking on when where and how to actually reserve the specific casita on the day, but from Googling it seemed like I was supposed to go to the Lime & Coconut on deck 16 at 9 am.  So I went ahead of my family while they were getting dressed for breakfast. It took until closer to 9:10 for someone to show up but they had a binder and put down my selection.   I chose #3 because it is closest to Splashaway Bay where we would be spending most of our time (the other cabana on the Splashaway Bay side is #4).  I then came back to the Lime & Coconut around 11 to check in once we had eaten breakfast.  At that point they took our order for our two welcome drinks.  The casita had a table with a cooler underneath filled with ice and 4 cans of water.  It was advertised as coming with storage and I saw a video of someone saying it came with a safe, but we had no storage or safe of any kind.  There was a USB plug. 

Having the casita with young kids on a port day is pretty much a waste I think. There were plenty of free loungers and since the kids couldn’t play unsupervised we couldn’t really spend any time lounging in it.  We had one again on the sea day though and that day I think was worth it because when we got to the pool deck after breakfast there were literally no loungers left. They are really comfy too so great if you think you can actually spend some time relaxing in them.  

We nearly had a meltdown because M, who is 6, was not quite tall enough to ride the water slides I’d been playing up to him. He’s been on rides that required 48” in the past so I never questioned him being tall enough, but I realised he always had shoes on for those. As it was, he missed the height by probably less than half an inch.  We didn’t try again to see if another operator would have been more lenient because he turned out happy enough to stick with the smaller slide in Splashaway Bay. 

I was also happy that Monster was perfectly content sticking to the under 3s section of Splashaway Bay. I had been worried he’d see the big kids section and throw a tantrum to go in. One annoying thing was that even though it was nearly empty, M wasn’t allowed to join Monster in playing in the younger kids section.  That meant both that the kids never got to play together without a wall in between and also that two parents were necessary to supervise both kids at all times. 

After we finished up at the pool we had lunch at El Loco Fresh which I thought was pretty good, but we had to waste awhile for it to open because it doesn’t open until 2 pm on port days apparently. But it was a good excuse to swing by the Lime & Coconut for another drink.  It was nice having an outdoor food option near the pool deck. 

We went to a general knowledge trivia session trivia session at Schooners in the afternoon. It was HARD. I think we got like 5 out of 15, maybe. 

We did try for Bingo at 5:30 pm but the line was too long so we just had a quick drink instead. We then headed to the Mason Jar for a 6 pm booking. We liked the food but the music was fairly obscure country which we are not into at all. Portion sizes were HUGE. Sorry to say but the fried chicken was just bad. We are from the south and it tasted like a person who had never been there imagining what fried chicken would taste like. I also love banana pudding with all of my being but the banana pudding was almost inedible. Everything else was pretty good though (cornbread, ribs, mac & cheese, cocktails).  One observation that proved true again a couple nights later was that the restaurant was more than half empty.  I’m not sure if this is typical or if people were just not as interested in the specialty dining for this cruise.

After dinner M went to kids Club.  Monster was supposed to go to nursery but again refused to we had to skip out on the adult comedy show we had booked. Instead we just had a drink in Central Park and caught some adult karaoke. 

Now onward to Day 5!  Whew, getting there. (In real life it’s Day 8 and I’m on the way home from the airport). 

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Day 5 - Rome

The morning got off to a bit of a rough start. We wanted to leave the ship at 8 Tom have plenty of time to catch our pre-booked train at 9:16, and as we are not morning people we ordered a room service breakfast to be delivered. When it hadn’t come by the end of the window, I checked outside our room and saw that the room service order had never been taken off our door.  I think the blue order forms against the blue doors was not a wise decision on Royals part.  So instead we scrambled to get something from the Windjammer and left the shop around 8:15. 

We exited on the deck 5 gang way (where we first boarded in Barcelona) rather than the deck 2 gangways (those were excursion only). 

It turns out the slight late start as more than fine because there were shuttles directly to the train station right next to the normal shuttles which cost €3 each, cash only, kids free.  I had misunderstood other’s who had posted on this before and thought you needed to take the free cruise ship bus into town, then the €3 shuttle from there to the train station.

There is a small food bar adjacent to the train station with snacks and some pastries. 

We tried to validate our tickets on the green machines at the station before boarding like I’d read was required,but they wouldn’t scan the bar code. Not sure if this was human error on my part or not. Since our tickets were for a specific day and time I hoped that it wouldn’t be an issue of our tickets were checked on the ride. 

We had booked 1st class table seats in car 1. When the train arrived we ran to the front thinking that would be car 1, but it turned out that the train was travelling backwards and car 1 was on the extreme opposite end. It took about 10 mins to slowly make our way down the entire length of the train to car 1, and by then our seats were taken. We decided to just take two sets of seats nearby rather than make the family there move.

We arrived into Roma Termini and found a cafe to grab sandwiches from for a picnic lunch at the Roman Forum. There is also a pharmacy and several shops, cafes and other food options in the station. 

We then took the metro 2 stops to Coloseo. Again the first ticket machines we got to had long lines, but if you continued into the station there were more machines with no lines. 

At the Colosseum area we found the entrance to the Roman Forum to be poorly marked. We followed arrows to what turned out to be the exit, along with a steady stream of being making the same mistake.  After about 15 mins in the baking hot sun we found the correct entrance, where there was a long but quick-moving line to enter. The ticket office was closed so only people who had pre-booked could enter. 

We spent most of our time in the Palatine Hill area which is adjacent to the Roman Forum.  Because it was hot, it was pretty slow moving for us with lots of breaks in the shade. We tried to have a picnic lunch but got swarmed by a few bees wherever we went, so didn’t actually eat very much. Because we were so hot no one was really in the mood for food anyway. 

At 1:00 we went to the entrance of the Colosseum for our guided to of the Colosseum and Underground. We found staff to be helpful in directing us to the right area and the meeting location was well-marked. The tour was “guided” in that we were lead as a group throughout the underground and given tiny bits of information here and there, but we were expected to supplement the tour ourselves by listening to the free audio guide you can download on the official app, Parco Colosseo.  So something to keep in mind if you do this option, as we hadn’t brought headphones.  

After the tour we headed straight back to the metro to Roma Termini caught the fast train back into Civitavacchia.  A shuttle bus back to the ship was waiting directly across from the train station and we were back in the ship around 5 pm.  

At this point I headed to the excursion desk to cancel our Pompeii on Your Own excursion for the next day. The evening before we’d come home from dinner to find that our 1 pm tickets had been replaced with 9 am tickets with a meeting time of 8:30. We were really counting into the chance to sleep in so decided against keeping the revised tickets and decided we would figure something out on our own. 

That evening we had 150 Central Park booked for 7:30 pm. My husband said the honey glazed scallops were the best scallops he’d ever had. The service was really good as well, with the server taking several minutes out to help distract and play with Monster when we started getting fussy, so that my husband and I could enjoy our food. 

M then went to kids club, but came back crying that night because he said older kids had been hogging the video games and he hadn’t gotten to play.  Monster finally fell asleep on a timely basis and we were able to drop him off at nursery while we went to the casino for an hour or so. 

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On 9/5/2022 at 1:18 PM, ellcee said:

I commend you for being able to take the heat during summertime in Italy. I went in June and all I did was sweat. 🤣

We did not handle the heat well at all (foreshadowing for day 6)!  We will definitely avoid Italy in the summer from now on.  I'm looking at October for a land-based vacation to hit the rest of Rome and maybe the Amalfi coast.   

Its a trade-off though because on a cruise we really like the ability to swim on the boat and with school holidays being as they are there isn't a great medium where we'd get hot enough weather to use the pool/Splashaway Bay on the pool but not swelter on land 😩

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19 minutes ago, berkeleykel said:

We did not handle the heat well at all (foreshadowing for day 6)!  We will definitely avoid Italy in the summer from now on.  I'm looking at October for a land-based vacation to hit the rest of Rome and maybe the Amalfi coast.   

Its a trade-off though because on a cruise we really like the ability to swim on the boat and with school holidays being as they are there isn't a great medium where we'd get hot enough weather to use the pool/Splashaway Bay on the pool but not swelter on land 😩

Perhaps the May half-term break might work for you. We were on Odyssey in May and the weather was perfect for the pool and land activities.

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On 9/1/2022 at 7:24 PM, berkeleykel said:

Some may call it being super mom, others headstrong and foolish.  We are making it work but I do fantasise about how nice it would be to just be my husband and me.  We have a long cruise planned for next year with my MIL watching the kids at home so I’ hopeful everything will come together for us to get away then.  

My husband and I actually did that every 5 years - on our 5x anniversaries.  I told my kids that if I don't take care of my husband and visa versa, than we may end up in a divorce.  I believe that it is important to take care of your marriage first and kids seconds (within reason).  For me, every 5 years is within reason.  LOL!  Fortunately, my in-laws were very understanding. I now am paying it forward with my own kids and grandkids. 

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On 9/7/2022 at 6:04 PM, mgoyanes said:

Hello.

Question regarding the exit in Rome.

Is the gangway on deck 2 or 5?

After exiting the ship, the bus to the outside of the port is easy to catch? Does it cost 3 euros per adult?

 

Thanks

If you did not have an RC excursion booked then you exited on Deck 5.   If you just wanted to go to the outside of the port, then I believe the buses were free and there were several lined up ready to go with almost no wait.  If you wanted to go to the train station, a couple of the shuttle buses were sign-posted as going to the train station, and those were the ones that cost €3 per adult. 

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Day 6 - Naples

Okay! So I’m only over a week late on this. 

As mentioned before we were supposed to go visit Pompeii with transportation provided by Royal, but they switched our time to an early morning departure which we just weren’t up for. Instead we decided to play it by ear. 

We slept in and had breakfast at the windjammer after 10. Then we finally capitulated to my oldest’s begging to play mini golf. While outside we were blown away by the views of Naples, but also oppressed by the hot sun bearing down on us. We had been debating going into Naples for lunch or taking a bus on our own to Pompeii , but the heat reminded us of our struggles, and M’s constant whining, of the days before. We decided to scrap getting off the boat entirely. 

Instead we took advantage of the lack of crowds on the pool deck and went back to Splashaway Bay. There were plenty of loungers and Monster was literally the only kid in the swim diaper area.  

In the afternoon we headed to laser tag, which started at 4:30 pm. We arrived 25 mins in advance, and proceeded to wait over TWO HOURS for my husband and M to make it to the front of the line. At this point we were late for our 6 pm seating at the MDR, so Monster and I went ahead and ordered for the others. It took until after 6:35 for husband and M to make it back from laser tag.  I had read about 30-45 minute waits, but nothing like this. Had we known, we wouldn’t have even told M that laser tag existed. However, they did have fun (albeit for less than 10 minutes after more than a 2 hour wait).  Note that although they had an age requirement listed in the app (5+), when you arrived they also added a height requirement (40”). Thankfully that wasn’t an issue for M. 

That evening we took both of the kids with us to see the magic show. It was pretty par for the course as far as magic shows go, and husband and I were impressed by how the magician was able to stretch so few tricks to last such a long time. However, M was on the edge of his seat impressed. Monster was a little fussy but we managed.

Which brings us finally to Day 7, the sea day. 

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Day 6 photos

I’ve included photos of Naples from the ship, the swim diaper area, the separation between the swim diaper area and potty-trained area, a view of the closest casitas from Splashaway Bay, and the laser tag set up in Studio B.  Non-participants can sit inside to watch the laser tag sessions, although you can’t see much. 
 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Day 7 - Sea Day

I may be three weeks late but I refuse to give up! However long it takes, this blog will be completed…

In our last full day of the cruise l spontaneously woke up around 7 am and spent a few hours on my own while the kids were still sleeping. I used this opportunity to check out the Solarium for the first time, which was pretty nice, and I took a few moments to relax and do some reading. However, towels were already laid out in most of the prime loungers with the forward view which was a bit baffling. Who are these people who wake up at 6am??? I also picked up a couple of extra tip envelopes from Guest Services and reserved our casita location for later in the day. 

Once back in the stateroom the kids were up and we headed to the Windjammer for breakfast around 10 am. We had been debating doing brunch in the MDR instead, but decided we’d rather have something quick so we could get to the pool deck before it was too crowded since it was the only sea day. 

Before heading to the pool we tried to catch the parade at 11:15 am on the promenade deck. We got there right at the start time, but by that point it was too crowded to see anything, especially for the kids (strangely it seemed like more adults were watching than kids), so we left for Splashaway Bay. 

When we got to the pool deck just before 11:30 am we didn’t see a single spare lounger, so we were glad to have the casita reserved even though we didn’t end up staying too long.  It was our third day spending time on the pool deck and the kids had a bit of a been-there-done-that attitude, so they were happy enough to leave after an hour or so. I should note that my 6 year old spent about half his time in the beach pool on our first day at the pool deck, but after that he only wanted to stick to Splashaway Bay because he didn’t like the salt water in the pool.  

We had lunch at El Loco Fresh which I thought was pretty good (at least compared to UK Mexican food), and it was convenient to be able to eat outside while still wet in our swimwear. 

We planned to spend the rest of the day doing our favourite things on cruises that we hadn’t had much time to get to yet: trivia, bingo and game shows.

First up was cartoon trivia where we got second place after a tiebreaker, driven 95% by my husband (I literally only knew one answer)! I then headed straight to bingo while my husband took the kids to play mini golf again and to finish up our arcade credits.  I paid $49 for six cards (three games each) plus one extra for having gold C&A level, which was an unexpected perk (the staff noticed this when I went to pay; I didn’t bring it up). The expected value of bingo was super low relative to jackpots in the $300-500 range, but I love bingo and the only time I ever get to play is on cruises so I was willing to eat the last investment. I also got a scratch card as part of the package and won $10, to be redeemed from the casino. I did not win at bingo sadly. 

What remained of the trip took a big turn at this point. I had woken up with a stomachache that got progressively worse throughout the day, until sitting through bingo, which went 20 minutes over schedule, became agony. Since bingo went over my husband had already started Trivia at 5 at Schooner’s, so I met him there. We did miserably bad again, as had been a trend for any of the general knowledge trivia sessions on this cruise. 

Afterwards we should have gone to dinner at 6 pm in the MDR, but I wasn’t up to it at all. I ended up in bed with bad chills. My husband took the kids to the windjammer for dinner but dropped off our tip envelopes with our MDR waiter staff first and explained our absence. We didn’t want them to think we were ditching them on the last night on purpose. I proceeded to sleep from 6 pm to roughly 3 am, when I got up in order to pack in a panic, despite feeling like death, with only the force of sheer adrenaline behind me (given we would be leaving the room within 5 hours at that point and hadn’t packed a thing). I took a a rapid antigen Covid test to be sure that wasn’t the root of my illness, but tested negative. I then crashed in bed again around 5 am for basically a nap before needing to get up in the morning to get everyone ready to leave the room by 8 am. 

That brings us to the end of Day 7. At some point in the near or distant future, I’ll update on Day 8 and overall thoughts on the trip. 

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