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12 must have Royal Caribbean tips & tricks for families

In:
24 Jul 2021

Royal Caribbean cruises are great vacations for families, and there are a few tips and tricks the help maximize your cruise experience.

When you go on a cruise with families, that means a mix of ages and even generations.  While lots of parents take their kids on cruises, multi-gen cruising is another popular option so that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins can spend time together onboard.

So while there are plenty of secrets I could share that apply to just about everyone, I wanted to focus on the sort of things families should know before they go on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Her are my top 12 Royal Caribbean tips for any family going on a cruise soon.

Research vaccine rules before you sail

If you have a cruise in 2021 or 2022, more than likely there will be important vaccine protocols you should be aware to avoid any surprises at the cruise terminal.

Depending on the port you depart from, there could be vastly different vaccine requirements mandated by both Royal Caribbean and/or the local authorities for kids and adults.

Depending on when you sail, kids as young as 12 years old may be required to be fully vaccinated in order to sail.

You can check out Royal Caribbean's health protocols on their website to be up to date with what they are requiring.

Buy your kids a passport

Passports cost money and kids passports expire after just 5 years, but they are worth the investment.

Having a passport for everyone in your party (that means you should get one too) makes the check-in, embarkation, and disembarkation process so much easier.

I think one of the biggest sources of frustration for families on a cruise are the lines and steps required to check-in and out of your cruise. Having a passport makes it all faster and simpler.

Consider booking two cabins instead of one

My favorite family cruise tip is to book two cabins instead of putting everyone into one room.

The conventional thought process is for a family of four or five to book one room for everyone. This is usually what families do at hotels or resorts, so why would a cruise be different?

Unlike hotels, cabins on a cruise are short on living space, so the experience is not exactly the same in sharing a room on a ship compared to on land.

Booking two cabins not only provides more living space, you get an extra bathroom (a huge benefit if your kids are older) and separation from your kids when it's time to go to sleep.

Moreover, booking two connecting smaller rooms instead of one larger room may actually save you money.

As your travel agent to look for connecting rooms, which have a common interior door to make going between the rooms easier.

Don't buy kids a dining package

Kids get special pricing at a specialty restaurant, so buy dining packages only for the adults.

Children between the ages of 0-5 are complimentary and ages 6-12 are $10 per child at any specialty restaurant.

When you make a reservation for a restaurant onboard, let your server know the adults have dining packages, but kids don't and you will get a better price than if you bought the dining package for everyone.

Kids can order off adult menu at specialty restaurants

Speaking of specialty restaurants, the waiters do not mind offering your kids the same options as adults.

Specialty restaurants have kids menus, but if the kids want something off the adult menu, there is rarely an issue with doing so (even at their lower price).

Tips for picky eaters

If your kids are anything like mine, they can be very picky about what they will eat.

If your kids are picky eaters, don't make your dining reservations based on the lowest common dining denominator.  

One strategy is to bring the kids up to the Windjammer for dinner, then take them to Adventure Ocean for the evening. After that, the adults can go to dinner wherever they like.

If you still want to eat with your kids, you could bring food from another restaurant in (such as pizza or chicken nuggets).  Most waiters will even go as far as to grab something simple like pizza from another restaurant for the kids.

Something else you can do is ask your head waiter for additional options for the kids.  In the main dining room, they can customize a lot of options, just give them a heads up in advance to ensure the chefs have enough time to prepare something.

The bottom line is don't be shy about asking for alternative foods for your kids.

Sign up for Adventure Ocean as soon as you can

On the first day of the cruise, be sure to head up to Adventure Ocean to sign them up as soon as registration opens.

Not only does this knock out an important must-do, it ensures you can get up there before lines develop later on.  Moreover, you don't want to be that parent in line to register your kids while all the other families already did so and just want to drop their kids off.

Unfortunately you cannot pre-register your kids online before the cruise, but head up there on day one in the afternoon during the Adventure Ocean open house to meet the staff, get questions answered, and avoid time wasted later.

You can leave your kids in Adventure Ocean while you go on a shore excursion

It may feel weird to leave your kids on the ship while you go ashore, but you can safely use this option if you prefer.

Some excursions may not be open to kids under a certain age, or perhaps your kids just want to hang out onboard instead of go on a tour.  Whatever the reason, Adventure Ocean is open while your ship is in port.

If your tour begins early in the morning before Adventure Ocean is set to open, let the staff know the day before and if it is a Royal Caribbean excursion, they can ensure someone will open up Adventure Ocean for you.

The staff will not only supervise the kids, but they will take them to lunch as well.

Make sure your ship has a nursery

If you are going on a cruise with kids under 36 months old, make sure the ship you booked has a nursery.

Most Royal Caribbean cruise ships have gotten a nursery added over the last few years, but a few still do not, and I would say you should avoid those ships.

The nursery is a godsend for parents with toddlers, because it offers excellent supervised child care for children of that age.  Kids can eat, play, and even nap in the nursery, making it an important resource for parents who want a break now and then.

Just like Adventure Ocean, register your child on the first day so that you can sign up for the limited hours they have.

My favorite nursery tip: call ahead

Since my kids are out of nursery age, I can safely share this tip without risk of someone using it against me.

If your baby is ready for a nap, call the nursery and see if you can drop them off.  The nursery is open throughout the day and in a lot of cases, they have availability in the morning and afternoon because most parents book up evening hours.

What I would do is call the nursery and ask if I can drop my child off.  I'd let them know my kid is ready for a nap, and to provide whatever pre-nap routine they need (i.e. bottle, stroller, etc) and to put them down for a nap and call me when they wake up.

This frees up both me and my wife so we can enjoy some time aboard while my kid takes a nap, instead of one of us being stuck in the cabin with them.

Book a ship with water slides

While pools are fun, water slides are kings among kids, and not every Royal Caribbean ship has a water slide.

When you decide to have a pool day, kids always want something else to do other than relaxing by the pool.  Water slides have been a boon for families, since it offers them an activity kids can do over and over again.

Before you book, research to check if the ship you are looking at booking has a water slide.

Set spending limits for your kids

For older kids who carry their own SeaPass card, you may want to enable spending limits to avoid a potential problem later.

First, when checking in online, you can choose the option "No onboard expense account" to prevent your children from using their SeaPass card for onboard purchases.

Once onboard, you can stop by Guest Services onboard and set a  pre-established limit.

The arcade has its own $50 per person daily limit, although you can increase/decrease this limit to whichever amount you would like by speaking to the Arcade attendant once onboard.

Free printable surprise Royal Caribbean cruise ticket template

In:
24 May 2019

If you have a Royal Caribbean cruise planned and want to surprise your kids, then we have the perfect way to get them super excited!

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Emily Davis created this ticket template that you can customize and then print to give to anyone in your family and get the cruise hype train started off in style!

All you have to do is save this ticket to your computer, and open in your favorite PDF program (Adobe Acrobat or FoxIt Reader are good choices).  Enter the proper information in the editable spaces, save and then print!

Emily recommends printing the tickets on cardstock to add to the presentation factor. You can get cardstock from most retailers, including Target, Staples or WalMart.  

There are crop lines to cut it down so the color goes to the edge like a real ticket!

Be sure to share in the comments photos of your finished work!

Symphony of the Seas family cruising guide

In:
31 Dec 2018

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas offers a lot for families to enjoy on their Caribbean cruise vacations. When we took our daughters on Symphony of the Seas, we sought to enjoy the very best activities, entertainment and things to do for a family. 

If you have never been on an Oasis Class ship, these are incredible vessels that pack as much into a cruise vacation as any ship in the world.  In fact, it is the largest cruise ship in the world and that means plenty to choose from onboard.  Family cruising on Symphony of the Seas means there is something for everyone and always something else to do or see, regardless of your age. 

Signature Activities

Prior to booking Symphony of the Seas, you may notice certain offerings onboard prominently advertised.  Royal Caribbean has built a reputation for itself by offering some of the best things to do onboard its ships.

A few activities and shows stand out as the premiere options that Symphony is well-known for.  The good news is that many of the activities are available to children of many ages. Some of the physical activities may have a height requirement that are best suited for children who are older elementary-school aged children or older. If your kids do not meet the height requirements, there is no need to worry as there is still plenty of other options to enjoy.

Families can enjoy these wonderful activities together:

  • The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, is a duo of racing slides where guests spiral down a 92-foot drop in about 13 seconds
  • The zipline crosses the open-air Boardwalk neighborhood at nine decks high
  • Two FlowRider surf simulators
  • Perfect Storm: three waterslides
  • Splashaway Bay aquatic adventure park
  • Escape from Planet Z laser tag
  • Escape room

Adventure Ocean

The heart of children's programming on Symphony of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's award-winning Adventure Ocean program.  

Adventure Ocean is divided into three age-appropriate groups

  • Aquanauts (ages 3 to 5)
  • Explorers (ages 6 to 8)
  • Voyagers (ages 9 to 11)

Adventure Ocean is complimentary, but kids need to be registered with Adventure Ocean and fully toilet trained to take part in activities. There are dedicated spaces for each age group, plus specialized areas like science labs and a theater for enhanced programming.  

Adventure Ocean is open most of the day, but their hours vary depending on if it is a port day or sea day.  On Sea days, Adventure Ocean can open as early as 6:30am.  Guests that have Royal Caribbean excursions booked and need to drop their children off earlier, can arrange with Adventure Ocean for that benefit.  For lunch, kids are brought to Wipe Out Cafe or Windjammer between noon and 1pm, and then again to the Windjammer for dinner between 5pm and 7pm. Adventure Ocean programming is included with your cruise fare.

Adventure Ocean closes at 10pm, but parents can leave their children with Adventure Ocean until 2am for an hourly fee.  The Late Night Party Zone runs from 10pm to 2am in Adventure Ocean, and is billed at $7 per hour, per child for children who remain after 10pm.

Tweens and teenagers also have their own club, plus a variety of activities onboard such as the FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing walls, an ice skating rink, a mini-golf course and a zip line. Teens meet at the Living Room, on Deck 15 aft and also have exclusive access to their own night club, known as Fuel on deck 15. Teens are free to come and go as they want, and curfew for all cruisers younger than 18 is 1 a.m. unless they're supervised by a parent.

Royal Babies & Tots Nursery

Any parent with a toddler or infant will find the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery an absolute blessing.  Royal Caribbean offers a nursery for children up to 36 months old.

At the nursery, you can drop off infants and toddlers off in a supervised environment, where the kids can watch TV, play with other children, explore and nap.   

The nursery will offer parents a drop-off option in the daytime and evening, while always maintaining an optimum staff-to-child ratio.

For a modest fee per hour ($8 at the time of this blog post), parents can reserve time for their kids here to give parents some time alone to enjoy what Royal Caribbean offers or explore a port.

The nursery staff are trained child care professionals and they will make sure your child is taken care of in the time they are there.  Parents also get a special mobile phone to use on the ship in case the nursery needs to call them or if the parents want to call and check in on things.

Entertainment & Shows

Symphony of the Seas offers shows that appeal to kids and adults, with its evening shows being real highlights. Depending on your kids ages and preferences, these shows may or may not be of interest to them, but Royal Caribbean designs its evening entertainment shows to be open to be family friendly.

You will find Symphony of the Seas' biggest shows across three venues: The Royal Theater, Studio B and the AquaTheater.

Here are the must-see shows on Symphony of the Seas and where to see each show:

  • Hairspray (Royal Theater)
  • 1977 (Studio B)
  • HiRo (AquaTheater)
  • Flight (Royal Theater)

Prior to your cruise, be sure to make reservations for each of these shows via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.  Reservations for these shows are complimentary and while it does not guarantee a specific seat, it will ensure you will be able to get into the show.  Guests without a reservation can wait in a standby line and take up any remaining seats, but it is simpler (and a whole lot easier for families) to make reservations before the cruise.

If you are wondering when you can make reservations for shows on Symphony of the Seas, it really depends.  If entertainment is available to reserve for your cruise, we have typically seen shows become available for booking around 75-60 days prior to the sail date, but your experience may vary.

Dining

Symphony of the Seas offers 23 dining venues for guests to choose between when eating onboard. Some of these restaurants are included with your cruise fare, while others have an additional cost.

Complimentary dining options are included with your cruise fare and guests can enjoy as much food as they like from these locations.  There is at least one complimentary option open at anytime during the day or night, with often quite a number of great choices. 

The alternative dining option are specialty dining, in which there is an additional cost to dine there.  Specialty dining costs can come in the form of cover charges (pay one fee and get all the food included) or a la carte charges (pay for only what you order). In general, specialty dining offers food and cooking styles not available elsewhere on the ship for guests that choose to indulge in them.

If you are looking for great choices for kids to grab something quickly, you will find some great options throughout the day for families at:

  • Windjammer
  • Park Cafe
  • Sorrento's Pizzeria
  • El Loco Fresh
  • Johnny Rockets (breakfast is complimentary, cover charge for lunch and dinner)
  • Boardwalk Dog House
  • Room service ($7.95 per order fee, complimentary for suite guests)

When it comes to dinner, you might want to look into My Family Time Dining. My Family Time Dining is offered in the first seating time in the main dining room for children ages three to eleven.

Here is how it works

  1. You arrive at the dining room with the kids and let your server know that the kids will be headed to Adventure Ocean as part of the My Family Time Dining program.
  2. The kids order and are served right away so that they can finish their meal within the first 40 minutes.
  3. After about 45 minutes, the Adventure Ocean staff arrive in the dining room lobby to sign in and hand off the kids.Parents will need to escort their children to the designated Main Dining room entrance doors at 6:45 pm to check their child in with the Adventure Ocean counselors. Once checked­in, the Adventure Ocean counselors will then escort their children to Adventure Ocean for ongoing evening activities.
  4. Adults return to their table to enjoy the rest of their meal at a more leisurely place.

Prior to the cruise, you can can contact Royal Caribbean or travel agent to book it. Alternatively, guests can sign up onboard in the Adventure Ocean area. Pre­-cruise reservations are encouraged.

Staterooms

When booking a Symphony of the Seas cruise, you will need to find the right stateroom for your family. Symphony has staterooms that can accommodate three and four passengers easily, along with some stateroom configurations that can handle even more guests.

Depending on your family size, age of your children, and your comfort level, booking multiple staterooms can often be the same or cheaper than booking a large room.  Multiple rooms provides not only additional living space, but extra restrooms and separation from parents and children. Royal Caribbean does offer some rooms with a connecting inside door between rooms.  

If you are cruising with young children, you should pack your own diapers, bottles, and other supplies.  There is milk available to all guests without an additional charge (skim or regular).  Some parents prefer to bring their own kid-friendly snacks and food, which is permissible by Royal Caribbean. Refer to our Taking an Infant on a Royal Caribbean cruise article for more information.

More cruising with kids info

You may have additional questions about cruising with kids on Royal Caribbean, or simply would like to learn more tips and advice.  Here are some good resources to consider:

Your thoughts

Now that you have read over our guide to taking kids on Symphony of the Seas, let's hear from other parents. What tips do you parents think are most important? Which advice we shared do you agree with? Where do you disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Video: Take a Tour of the Family Adventures on Symphony of the Seas

In:
05 Dec 2018

Royal Caribbean International’s new Symphony of the Seas is a “playground” for guests of all ages. From glow-in-dark laser tag, an escape room adventure and multistory waterslides, to the one-of-a-kind Ultimate Family Suite – featuring an in-suite slide, air hockey table and a private cinema – Symphony’s collection of bold, new thrills make this TIME magazine “World’s Greatest Places” winner the ultimate family vacation.

Top 10 Family Friendly Royal Caribbean shore excursions

In:
28 Aug 2018

A cruise vacation is about enjoying a family experience together, and Royal Caribbean shared its top picks for family friendly excurions in the Caribbean.

Here is the list of Royal Caribbean's favorite family friendly shore excursion options.

All Inclusive St. John Beach & Snorkel (St. Thomas)

Cruise from St. Thomas to nearby St. John and visit the stunning beach of Trunk Bay, featuring an underwater reef trail. Enjoy a narrated boat ride complete with photo stops en route to Trunk Bay — famous for its long stretches of white sand and sparkling water. Discover tropical fish and colorful coral on the snorkel trail or simply swim, sunbathe, and relax.

Caribbean Sail to Christmas & Honeymoon Coves (St. Thomas)

Climb aboard a schooner whose friendly crew delivers a fun day of sailing, snorkeling, swimming and beach time. Discover sea turtles, tropical fish and coral while anchored offshore in the waters of Christmas Cove. Sail on to Water Island, where you can relax on the sands of Honeymoon Beach, swim and do more snorkeling before sitting down to a freshly-prepared Caribbean BBQ served overlooking the sparkling blue sea.

5 Star Island Tour (St. Thomas)

Drink in lovely St. Thomas vistas, enjoy spectacular shopping and explore the stunning Magen's Bay Beach on a driving tour of key island landmarks. Stop at the famous Mountain Top, a local institution atop St. Peter Mountain where you can shop or enjoy the views. Then head to heart-shaped Magen's Bay Beach for two hours of sun and fun. Conclude with two more hours shopping in Main Street, downtown Charlotte Amalie.

4x4 St. Maarten and Beach Escape (St. Maarten)

Escape the crowds to discover the island’s scenery and leading sights on an adventurous 4x4 drive, with time in the French capital and on a gorgeous beach. Travel via convoy across the island, through the charming seafront town of Grand Case on route to Marigot, while stopping at scenic lookouts along the way. Enjoy free time to stroll around the quaint and atmospheric city. End your St. Maarten exploration with a refreshing swim and relaxation.

A Golden Eagle Sailaway (St. Maarten)

Walk the red carpet before boarding a catamaran for a pampered sailing excursion to an unspoiled St. Maarten beach. Keep an eye out for flying fish and dolphins as you stretch out in the nets or in the shade of the sail as the boat reaches speeds of up to 20 knots. At the beach, swim, sun, and snorkel. Recharge on the return to Philipsburg with sandwiches and cold drinks served by the friendly crew.

Maho Airplane Experience (St. Maarten)

Experience the thrill of watching, hearing and feeling a commercial airplane as it lands merely feet above you while lounging along the white sands and turquoise waters of Maho Beach. Join a friendly and informative local guide for a 35-minute narrated motor coach ride across the Dutch side of St. Maarten. Upon arrival at Maho Beach, you’ll enjoy over three hours of free time at this popular seaside locale. But beyond all those exciting activities, the most unique aspect of this beach is its proximity to Princess Juliana International Airport, as one of its runways is situated right next to the beach.

Old and New San Juan (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Fall in love with the beauty of Puerto Rico's capital as you go through a guided tour on the historical landmarks in Old and New San Juan. In New San Juan, you'll explore Condado, Isla Verde, and the picturesque residential areas. Step down the fabulous Window of the Seas where the famous Puerto Rican superstars have printed their signatures on the sidewalk resembling Hollywood Boulevard. In Old San Juan, you'll discover the Capitol Building, the 5th Centenary Plaza, and have the opportunity to choose between visiting San Cristobal Fort or the colonial shopping district.

Pirate Treasure Hunt Family Tour (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Get ready for some swash-buckling fun as your family helps a local pirate find his way home while walking along a sweet treat-laden trail around Old San Juan that leads to El Morro fortress. Set out on foot in true buccaneer style on a guided hunt that leads you through blue cobblestone pathways amidst San Juan’s historic colonial district. Discover notable treasures along the way: stone buildings dating back to the 16th century; the marble statues of Plaza de Armas; and the Ballaja Barracks, which once housed a thousand soldiers. Along the way you’ll learn about Puerto Rico’s illustrious history and taste a variety of sugary delights in local shops — frozen yogurt, popcorn or, chocolates and churros. Outside stately El Morro, a 16th-century citadel with a storied wartime legacy, kids can fly a kite into the Puerto Rican air to celebrate the finding of the trail’s final treasure. Take in the view of San Juan Bay before making the trek back through town to your ship.

Campo Rico ATV Adventure (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Hop on an ATV for a “Ride of a lifetime”. “ Experience the thrill of driving an all-terrain vehicle through the Puerto Rican countryside just minutes from San Juan on a 2,200- acre private ranch that leads you to a plantation home, horse stables and ends at the Mojito bar. Meet our experienced guides, receive a safety briefing and get operational instruction of how to drive your ATV. Then hit the gas and follow your guide as you maneuver your 4x4 machine around mountains, mangroves, lagoons, limestone formations and tropical fields. Watch for wildlife along the trails before driving up to Mi Casa, a traditional Spanish sugarcane plantation estate home. During a short break take photos and learn the history of this working ranch. Continue your ride through the ranch stopping at the horse stables and learn the history of the “ Paso Fino “ horse. End your ride at the Mojito Bar, relax and rejuvenate in this hilltop watering hole, where you can purchase beer, mojitos and other tropical drinks.

San Juan Food and Culture Tour (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Satisfy your tastebuds as you experience the best of Old San Juan on a small group walking tour. You’ll venture off the beaten path to discover its delicious foods, fascinating architecture, intriguing cultural traditions and bustling shopping streets of the historical neighborhood of Old San Juan. Your culinary walking tour lets you taste specialties from a variety of favorite local food establishments. You will have the opportunity to get involved in the food preparation by having an active role in some of the food served. You will also receive a coupon savings booklet which allows for additional savings in restaurants and shops throughout Old San Juan.

Top tips for taking a Royal Caribbean family cruise vacation

In:
26 Jul 2018

Taking the family on a Royal Caribbean cruise is something more and more families are doing every year.  A family cruise offers lots of different activities, shows, and places to visit that is sure to cater to everyone's needs.  In fact, a lot of extended families will choose a cruise because it allows them to make wonderful memories together without having to be physically together all the time.

If you are going on a Royal Caribbean cruise for your upcoming family vacation, here are our top tips for ensuring it is the best family vacation ever.

Consider getting two staterooms instead of one

When families look to book a cruise, they will likely start off by trying to find a room that everyone can fit in.  It makes logical sense, but on a cruise, sometimes going for multiple smaller rooms is not only a better value, it can provide much more personal space for everyone involved.

Often, the cost of two staterooms can be cheaper than some of the family staterooms and can offer more separation between family members (a plus for families with teenagers).

Booking two staterooms also allows for connecting staterooms, in which there is a door between the staterooms that allows for easy flow between them.  This can be convenient during the day to keep the doors open, essentially creating a two room stateroom.

Families with younger children will want to get connecting rooms to ensure easy access between the rooms, while older kids can probably be fine in a nearby room. Regardless, a second room is an option to consider for larger groups that need more space.

Pick a ship that offers activities and amenities your family wants

There are a lot of fantastic cruise ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet and each offers something a little different.  When you are trying to decide which ship to sail on, be sure to take into account what sort of options your family will want to enjoy.

What you ought to do is determine if having a water slide, ice skating rink, Broadway show, basketball court, or any other highlight is important and something you would like to enjoy while onboard and then see which ships offer those possibilities.

If you are a cruising with kids, picking a ship with many pools and water play areas might be a good idea.  All Royal Caribbean ships have pools and hot tubs, but only some offer water slides and aqua parks.  Teens would likely find enjoyment with a ship that has a FlowRider surf simulator, or Ripcord by iFly.

Be sure to look at what each ship offers and balance the options offered versus other aspects of what you are looking to get out of the vacation.  

Plan on swimming on embarkation day

The first day of your cruise is filled with excitement, anticipation and energy.  With all the excitement of getting onboard, a really good idea for families is to let everyone start off the cruise with some pool time.  This is an especially good time to hit the pool because a majority of guests do not have their swim suits with them when they board, so you get to enjoy the pools, slides and aqua parks with far less lines.

Either wear your swim suit to the ship, or pack it in your carry-on luggage and then change in a public restroom onboard.  Towels will be provided in the pool area for your use. This is particularly good for kids who want to jump in as soon as possible.

Register children for Adventure Ocean early

On the first day of your Royal Caribbean cruise, guests can register their children in Adventure Ocean prior to Adventure Ocean opening.  While you can register kids at any point in the cruise, take advantage of the open house on embarkation day for an optimal experience.

The Cruise Compass will list times when Adventure Ocean is open for registration.  This time is not when Adventure Ocean is open for kids to stay, but for kids to see the area and for parents to ask questions and get acclimated to the program.

The open house time on embarkation day is the perfect time for the kids to meet the counselors and see the facility.  As a parent, you can talk to the staff about any concerns you might have.  By doing this during the open house time (instead of when Adventure Ocean is operating) is you have much more time and a relaxed atmosphere to go over everything.

It is a good idea to register kids on the first day simply because there is a set time for registration to occur, and it ensures a smooth first night later on.

If you have a baby, make sure you cruise on a ship with a nursery

Children between the ages of six months and 36 months old can participate in the Royal Babies and Royal Tots (6-36 months) program.  Most Royal Caribbean ships offer a nursery, where parents can drop children off throughout the day and evening. Use of the nursery comes at an hourly charge. Young children can enjoy soft play areas and age-appropriate toys, as well as cribs and cots for napping or sleeping.

If you have children under the age of three, be sure to book a Royal Caribbean cruise that offers a nursery.  For child and parent alike, the nursery is a wonderful resource. Yes, the nursery does have an additional charge, but having a nursery onboard means you have the option to take advantage of it and provide some adult time when you might need it.

Review the Cruise Compass each evening together

Your stateroom attendant will deliver a copy of the next day's Cruise Compass to your stateroom each evening, and this is a perfect opportunity to comb over what is lined up for the next day.  By reviewing the Cruise Compass together, you will be able to identify which activities or events are of interest and make sure you can plan around the schedule.

A mistake first time cruisers make is to not check the Cruise Compass until after they wake up that morning, and the result can be missing out on an event they would have liked to attend.

A good tip is to ask your stateroom attendant for a copy of the Cruise Compass just before going to dinner and reviewing it in the main dining room (or wherever you happen to dining that evening).  Since everyone will be around for dinner, it is the perfect opportunity to review what is in store for the next day.

Consider taking advantage of My Family Time Dining

My Family Time Dining is offered for the first seating time in the main dining room, for children ages three to 11.

Here is how it works

  1. You arrive at the dining room with the kids and let your server know that the kids will be headed to Adventure Ocean as part of the My Family Time Dining program.
  2. The kids order and are served right away so that they can finish their meal within the first 40 minutes.
  3. After about 45 minutes, the Adventure Ocean staff arrive in the dining room lobby to sign in and hand off the kids.Parents will need to escort their children to the designated Main Dining room entrance doors at 6:45 pm to check their child in with the Adventure Ocean counselors. Once checked­in, the Adventure Ocean counselors will then escort their children to Adventure Ocean for ongoing evening activities.
  4. Adults return to their table to enjoy the rest of their meal at a more leisurely place.

Pre­cruise, guests can call into Reservations, reserve online, contact their travel agent or certified vacation planner. Or guests can sign up onboard in the Adventure Ocean area. Pre­cruise reservations are encouraged.

Your thoughts

What advice would you offer to a family going on their first Royal Caribbean cruise together? Are there lessons you would share with others for an even better cruise experience together? Share your tips and ideas in the comments.

Video: Ultimate Family Suite Unveiled on Symphony of the Seas

In:
25 Apr 2018

Imagination brings the one-of-a-kind Ultimate Family Suite to life with swoon-worthy features, whimsical color schemes and a whole lot of awesome. The 1,346-square-foot interactive space is designed for both the young and the young at heart, providing a space for families to come together during their cruise vacation, while also offering enough room and amenities to relax during that special “me time.”

Royal Caribbean looking to push the envelope for family fun on Symphony of the Seas

In:
14 Mar 2018

Royal Caribbean has big plans for the world's largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, especially when it comes to offering more for families to do than on any of its ships since.

Families on Symphony of the Seas can try a glow-in-the-dark laser tag adventure, take the plunge down the tallest slide at sea, or soak up some sun after getting drenched on the ship’s epic waterslides and surf simulators.

The highlights for families on Symphony of the Seas include:

The Ultimate Family Suite

The new Ultimate Family Suite is two stories of thrills on every level. This one-of-a-kind stateroom has some "swoon-worthy" features, whimsical color schemes and a whole lot of awesome.

The 1,346-square-foot interactive space is designed for both the young and young at heart, providing a space for families to come together during their cruise vacation, while also offering enough room and amenities to relax during that special “me time.”

Family Friendly Menus

Eating on Symphony of the Seas will be a pleasure, as the ship offers a little bit of everything onboard to ensure even the pickiest eaters can find something to enjoy. Symphony will make it easy for families to taste the ultimate kid’s menus at sea across more than 20 restaurants found on board, four of which are new concepts for the cruise line.

  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade is where families cheer on their home team playing on any of more than 30 big-screen TVs, while they munch on American classics like wings, popcorn shrimp, sliders, burgers and picture-perfect sundaes. After finding inspiration in celebrating a win, it is game on at the arcade with Ms. Pac-Man, Star Wars Battle Pod, Ice Skee-ball and a lineup of other popular arcade games.
  • El Loco Fresh is perfect for the family on the go with a fiesta of flavors, from made-from-scratch mole sauce and tangy salsa verde to the made-to-order tacos and burritos. This crazy delicious Mexican fare is fresh and fast for those looking to fuel up for their next onboard adventure.
  • Hooked Seafood is the ultimate catch for families looking for fresh seafood. Those angling for a real taste of New England-inspired classics can enjoy lobster and crab claws, or take their pick of local fish and just-shucked oysters at the ice-cold raw bar.
  • Sugar Beach candy and ice cream shop is the ultimate spot for that sweet tooth. Adults and kids alike can take their pick from a family’s favorite confections and ice creams, alongside a few sugarcoated surprises. The sweetest place on the high seas also features family-friendly DIY activities for aspirational culinary artists.

Things to do

Royal Caribbean has added new high-tech, high-energy original productions that will captivate children and grownups alike.

  • Battle for Planet Z has family, friends and foes go head to head for control of the last planet in the galaxy in this new glow-in-the-dark laser tag experience, complete with state-of-the-art technology and special effects.
  • Puzzle Break: Escape the Rubicon challenges teams to race against the clock as they learn to work together toward one common goal – to escape the submarine-themed room before time runs out.

Fun for all ages

Symphony of the Seas will also offer plenty of family favorites onboard, such as

  • Ultimate Abyss – the tallest slide at sea
  • The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides
  • Two FlowRider surf simulators
  • Splashaway Bay, a vibrant waterscape for kids and toddlers
  • Skating in a real-ice rink at Studio B
  • Mini-golf course
  • A nine-deck-high zip line
  • Two rock-climbing walls that stand 43 feet high
  • Full-size basketball court
  • Table tennis
  • 19 pools across 1,188 feet

Symphony of the Seas will also offer complimentary programming for kids, in the form of the Adventure Ocean youth program.  Guests ages 3 to 17 years old can participate in entertaining and educational experiences and activities infused with innovative fun and excitement. Highlights include:

  • Aquanauts (ages 3-5 years) serves up cool experiments and the chance to become Certified Jr. Adventure Scientists.
  • Explorers (ages 6-8 years) includes fun events and adventures, such as themed parties.
  • Voyagers (ages 9-11 years) offers a range of activities that puts the "cool" back into learning.

Babies and toddlers also have their own array of options to consider.

  • Royal Babies (ages 6-18 months) offers the tiniest guests and their parents interactive classes filled with enriching activities developed by early childhood experts.
  • Royal Tots (ages 18-36 months) provides 45-minute interactive playground sessions filled with age-appropriate activities and toys.

Tweens & Teens Program (ages 12-17 years) allows older kids the freedom to come and go from their dedicated spaces on board, while checking out games, sports and parties with others their age.

6 ways to make the most of a Royal Caribbean cruise as a family

In:
03 Jan 2017

For a lot of us, a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation is a family affair.  This could be a large family gathering on the cruise with the entire extended family, or this could be just a vacation with your immediate family.  Either way, you will want your cruise experience to hit all the high notes and create lasting memories that you will want to talk about for years after the cruise completed. 

Here are a few tips we put together to help ensure you have the best family vacation experience.

1. Plan together

Before you ever set foot on your cruise ship, get the cruise fun started early with some planning.  Including everyone in the cruise planning is a great way to ensure not only that everyone's ideas are accounted for, but it also helps foster the excitement for this cruise.

It is important to get everyone's input on what they want to do during the cruise so that there is something for everyone to look forward to. It could be reservations at a restaurant, plans for a specific port of call you are visiting or just ensuring there is enough ice cream and pool time together.

You can also include other non-cruise related planning, like creating custom t-shirts for the trip together.  Building anticipation for the trip together sets the tone for a fun family trip!

2. Try a specialty restaurant

Families typically save money for their family vacation and one of the best experiences that is worth a few more hard-earned dollars is a specialty restaurant on a Royal Caribbean cruise. The cost will vary depending on how many people are in your party, but working at least one in during your cruise can top off the dining experience when you can get everyone included for a special meal.

This could be as simple as lunch with the family at Johnny Rockets, a hibachi table for your family at Izumi or a fancy evening out at Chops Grille. Each specialty restaurant offers something different, and there are a good variety of restaurants to choose from that offer different cuisines and different prices.

Having a meal together at a specialty restaurant is a great way to get a break from the "hustle and bustle" of a busy day onboard the ship and take some time to enjoy a meal together.

3. Book an immersive shore excursion

Your Royal Caribbean cruise will take you to some exciting ports of call, and one really tip for a fun family experience is to pick at least one shore excursion to do as a family that is more than just hanging out by the beach. We love the beach, but going on an adventure as a family can really create lasting memories.

Royal Caribbean's Family Connections shore excursions are designed to create memories, while taking guests on fun explorations of the wildlife, nature, history, and cultural experiences that can be shared among kids, parents, and grandparents. These tours are a great starting point for finding something that everyone can agree on, and more importantly, look forward to trying.

4. Character dining

Did you know on select Royal Caribbean ships there are character breakfast meals available for guests to enjoy? If your family has young children (or adults who are young at heart), then this meal can be fun for all to enjoy.

The DreamWorks Character breakfast is usually held in the main dining room on select mornings in the main dining room. Royal Caribbean offers a breakfast with some of your favorite Dreamworks characters, including characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and Madagascar. 

Breakfast here is of the sit-down variety and you get a little entertainment to go with it. For kids, it's free but anyone over the age of 10 will have to pay a $10 fee.

5. Be flexible

We all want our family vacations to be perfect, and create the kind of memories everyone will speak fondly of for years to come.  However, family dynamics are rarely known for being simple and the secret to a great family vacation is to sometimes be able to take a step back and be flexible with your plans.

While we love to plan as much of the cruise as possible, it is important to allow room for spontaneous moments or just a "go with the flow" sea day.  Planning out each part of your day is aimed at ensuring you get a chance to "do it all", but you also do not want to frustrate family members because they feel like there is a strict regiment for what is supposed to be a relaxing vacation. Planning is important and should be done where it make sense, but do not plan every minute or even every hour of the day.

Plan ahead your general plans, shore excursions, entertainment and even dining.  Then, go with the flow.  Maybe you sleep in and then eat breakfast in the Windjammer one day and wake up early to hit the pool another day.  You never know what everyone will be in the mood for, but allowing for time to everyone to relax and simply hang out can be just as fun a family experience as an organized shore trip.

6. Try something new

There is nothing wrong with doing things that you love, but make a note to try something completely new. Forcing yourself to get out there and try something new can be just the ticket to discovering a brand new activity, food or experience that you never thought you'd like.  

Depending on the Royal Caribbean ship you will be cruising on, there can be a variety of new things to try out.  Be sure to bring your family with you to try it out too, or just document the experience for all to enjoy later.  Here are some of our favorite activities worth the try:

It really does not matter which you pick, because the point is to do things together as a family and create memories (even if it is of you falling down on the FlowRider a few times).

Your thoughts

What advice would you offer to a family going on their first Royal Caribbean cruise together? Are there lessons you would share with others for an even better cruise experience together? Share your tips and ideas in the comments.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Family cruising on Royal Caribbean

In:
03 Feb 2016

Listen to the Show

If Royal Caribbean does something really well, it is offering its guests the opportunity for an amazing family vacation and family is the key word. Whether you are going with your spouse, children, grandparents, cousins or people you met through your favorite cruise website and consider them family, a Royal Caribbean cruise offer so much for everyone and it is no surprise to hear Royal Caribbean is a great choice for families.

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