*Disclosure: I recently attended a media trip with Royal Caribbean International; all related travel and accommodations were provided. I was given the freedom to write about what meant the most to me and what might be of most interest to my readers. All opinions expressed are honest and my own.
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When it became clear that my 6yo son Eli and I would be embarking on a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise together, it crossed my mind that I just might be crazy. I mean, WHO brings a 6yo on a cruise?! I had never been before, and always assumed that cruises weren’t meant for little kids. But before Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas even left the dock at Port Canaveral, I knew this was going to be an awesome adventure for both me and Eli.
So take it from me: here are 6 Reasons to Take Your Kids on a Royal Caribbean Cruise:
#1. DreamWorks Experience on Royal Caribbean
Several of Royal Caribbean’s ships – including Freedom of the Seas – provide the unique and fun DreamWorks Experience for families. This experience includes:
- special performances by several popular DreamWorks characters, including “Setting Sail” extravaganzas, parades, and more;
- “meet and greet” photo opportunities with DreamWorks characters;
- a special DreamWorks character breakfast;
- dedicated DreamWorks movie channel in your stateroom;
- special showings of the most recent DreamWorks releases in the 3D movie theater;
- DreamWorks character merchandise for sale, right on board.
We are huge fans of DreamWorks, and this experience was a perfect fit for my son. Meeting the different characters, having movies to watch at all hours in our stateroom, enjoying the fun and energy of the various shows and “meet and greet”s – it was all incredibly exciting for Eli.
#2. H2O Zone Water Park
Before we even left port, my son and I explored every corner of Freedom of the Seas. He was most excited to discover the H2O Zone water park, and I knew we would be spending many, many hours there.
The H2O Zone water park was absolutely perfect for our needs. I could set myself up somewhere in the sun and comfortably watch Eli as he played to his heart’s content. With a whirlpool, huge splash pad, kid-friendly hot tubs, and one larger (though not too deep) swimming pool, it was easy to have hours of fun.
While there are no lifeguards on duty – and many “Pool Rules” signs indicate as much – I did notice several Deck Patrol staff keeping on eye on things from the ground and up above. Because I was traveling alone with Eli, I decided to bring his life jacket along, and he really loved the added freedom that gave him.
The H2O Zone on Freedom of the Seas is perfectly situated just behind the main pool area, so while you feel like you have a separate space for kids, you can still hear all the activities and live music going on at the main pool. I also liked that we were right next to a juice bar, where I could get ice cold water for us at any time, and we were close to the ship’s towel exchange for pool towels, bathrooms for both men and women, and – most important of all – the help-yourself-all-you-can-eat Sprinkles frozen yogurt machine.
#3. Adventure Ocean Youth Program
Adventure Ocean is Royal Caribbean’s youth program for kids 3-17. Kids are broken up into age groups (3-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-17) and are supervised by highly trained staff. In fact, all Adventure Ocean staff members have a 4 year University degree or international equivalent in Education, Recreation, or a related field. They each also have at least 3-5 years qualified experience working with children ages 6 months – 17 years.
6yo Eli was part of what they call the “Explorers” group, and absolutely LOVED his time at the kid’s club. Out of respect for the other kids there, I didn’t take any pictures of the room as a whole, but here is a photo from the “Explorers” room on Oasis of the Seas, and it was very similar:
Although Eli was immediately drawn to the gaming systems – they had everything from a Wii U to an Xbox and more – I quickly realized that the staff limited the kid’s time on the devices. Instead, the staff would regularly involve the kids in some kind of organized game or activity. The wide open space meant they could kick balls around, play with hula hoops, or even have a dance party. There were “themed” nights with pajamas or pirates, and my son loved that each staff member had a fun nickname. “Lemonade” was his favorite staffer, but he also talked a lot about “Tweety Bird,” “M&M,” and others.
As a parent, my favorite part of Adventure Ocean was their dinnertime dining option. Eli didn’t particularly enjoy the formal nights in the main dining room, so twice during our 7-night cruise, I dropped him off at Adventure Ocean, and they took the kids to the buffet dining room for dinner, then back to the play room for more fun. Which meant that I got to get all dressed up for the main dining room and enjoy a lovely dinner with even lovelier adult conversation. It was a win-win situation for Eli and I!
I should also mention that aboard select ships, Royal Caribbean does offer a Royal Babies and Tots Nursery for toddlers 6-36 months, and there are services for private group babysitting and in-stateroom babysitting. And for teenagers – although I didn’t need to check it out for this particular trip – there are different age-appropriate “nightclubs” and late-night activities as well.
#4. Sports Activities
We went to Deck 13 on Freedom of the Seas every. single. day. That’s because Eli loved the “Freedom Fairways” – the ship’s 9-hole miniature golf course. Rain or shine, wind or still, we went every day (sometimes several times a day!) to golf up there.
We also played a little basketball in the Sports Court (also suited for volleyball and paddle ball) and enjoyed playing ping pong. Although neither Eli nor I were game for it on this particular trip, we had a great time watching people scale The Wall, royal Caribbean’s signature rock climbing wall, and had all sorts of fun watching people on the FlowRider, Royal Caribbean’s surf simulator.
While there are lots of opportunities to relax while sailing with Royal Caribbean, I was happy to see so many ways to keep active, too – especially since Eli can hardly ever sit still. While on board Freedom of the Seas, we got a sneak peek at Royal Caribbean’s new ship, Quantum of the Seas, first setting sail in 2014. Both Eli and I are incredibly excited about Quantum’s new SeaPlex – the largest indoor activity space at sea – that will include bumper cars, a circus school and flying trapeze, full-size regulation basketball court, and more. Kids who have lots of energy to burn will find tons of ways to keep busy in the SeaPlex.
#5. Fine Dining…or Not
As I’ve already written, the main dining room experience of Freedom of the Seas was one of my favorite parts of our cruise. Eli was a little less than excited about the whole process, but it was a good opportunity to teach him more about cloth napkins, correct table settings, and dining courses (we’re not too fancy back at home). Besides, the main dining room offered a “kid’s menu” with items like Chicken Tenders, so at least I wasn’t making him eat escargot (which *was* on the adult menu).
Lucky for Eli, there were lots of options for more casual meals. All but one morning we ordered breakfast from room service, which was free. With items like eggs, sausage, bacon, seasonal fruits, pastries, and more, we got used to being spoiled with a delicious breakfast in bed. And we spent most lunches in the Windjammer Cafe, Royal Caribbean’s fabulous casual buffet. When Eli wasn’t in the mood to deal with crowds (lunchtime can be quite busy in the Windjammer), we’d venture down to Deck 5 for some Sorrento’s – a lovely little pizzeria that serves complimentary slices of pizza, plus cups of fresh fruit, dessert, and wonderful ice-cold water.
I was a little worried before we sailed that we’d have trouble finding kid-friendly fare for Eli, but there is something for every taste on Royal Caribbean. They also work hard to accommodate any special dietary concerns or allergies, which I know is important to many families. Finally, if it’s treats you want, it’s treat you’ll get – Eli couldn’t have been happier about things like green jello in the buffet and the Sprinkles frozen yogurt machine at the pool.
#6. The Memories
Eli and I made so many precious memories together on this trip. We stood in the sea air, decorated cupcakes, watched sunrises and sunsets across the ocean, swam in the Caribbean and collected shells on its shore, visited a tropical butterfly farm, and so, so much more. I may have thought it was crazy to take a 6yo on a cruise, but now I see all the ways that Royal Caribbean has made cruising fun for families. I look forward to setting sail again in the future, this time with more of my family along for the adventure.