CRUISING WITH ROYAL CARIBBEAN
updated July, 2020
Did you know it’s estimated that in 2019 a staggering total of 30 million cruisers headed out onto the high seas? That’s more than the entire population of Australia! Cruising is one of the fastest growing sectors in the travel industry. As the world continues to address challenges regarding the Covid-19 health pandemic, the cruise community is co-ordinating efforts during the current suspension, to guide their return to operation. Royal Caribbean has assembled specialists in public health and biosecurity, and experts in infectious diseases, in their Healthy Sail Panel to develop a science-backed plan to get the world back to cruising in a safe and healthy manner. Promotions and great deals are available for Royal Caribbean cruises to New Zealand in 2021 with 30% off cruise prices for kids and adults! So what are you waiting for?
Fantastic, I hear you say. But you’ve also heard the saying “cruises are for the newlywed and nearly dead” right? Wrong!! Sorry Baby Boomers, it’s the Millennials still rocking this ship (the average age for a cruise passenger in 2018 was 47 years). But the 21st century is the age of Instagrammable tourism: there are close to 351 million posts per day on average with the #travel driving interest in the leisure cruise industry, and the insatiable wanderlust of Gen Z is fast outpacing Millennials. So what exactly is it about cruising that appeals to such a wide audience?
Answer: amenities and activities! Have you SEEN the size of cruise ships these days? They’re like small villages sailing off into the sunset. Or, think of them this way, if the city of Las Vegas married an all-inclusive Club Med resort, a cruise ship would be the result! A Casino, nightly theatre and variety shows, special interest classes to join, yoga at sunrise, games area, countless bars, pool and water parks, shopping options, spa, gym, kids clubs, minigolf, go-karting, rock climbing – I mean, there’s even some with an ice skating rink on board (what the!!!). You could opt to do a whole lot of nothing, or indulge in a whole lot of everything! Not a minute spare to be bored. And in between all the activities? Well, it’s always food o’clock on board! Cruises are like having your own private food court - only way more stylish. So many choices, so little time to think of the calories! But I’ve kept the best part till last. Consider this, apart from the all-important unpack once factor (no suitcase living!), there’s no luggage weight limit. Bring 10 pairs of shoes for a 5-night cruise! Totally up to your discretion. But how to choose the right cruise for you?
All you need to do is ask yourself these three questions: who, what, and where? Who would you like to sail with? What type of cruise would you like to join? Where in the world would you like to visit?
If it’s your family you like to relax with, fun for all (big and little kids alike) is positively guaranteed with many cruises featuring water park areas resembling a mini Disney Blizzard Beach on board. Female only? No problem! There are cruises for solo travellers, gay and lesbian and even for our four-legged furry friends. That takes care of the ‘who’. Now for the ‘what’…
Are you after a unique experience? Themed cruises have soared in popularity over recent years with passenger’s wishing to indulge in their interests with like-minded vacationers. So if you’re into Boticelli and ball gowns then you could consider an Art Themed cruise. There are Food and Wine cruises or ones for the Beer Enthusiast on offer. If you would like to tango the night away, a Dance Cruise is for you. Music cruises could be just the ticket for opera or Elvis fans. Sports fan? Golf cruises accommodate professionals and amateurs alike with many liners providing opportunities to take on the best of the world’s golf courses. Does an Entertainment Cruise appeal? Choose from sci-fi classics such as Dr Who or Star Trek (the cruise staff are costumed as Trekkies on the USS Enterprise!). Whether it’s a Knitting Cruise or 80’s themed, there’s a seemingly endless choice of options on offer!
Following on from the trend of themed cruises, the new buzz word in cruising is “enrichment”. What’s the difference you ask? Well, enrichment cruises focus on educational topics (think floating universities!). Programs range from personal finance and history to learning piano and ecological studies. When you need a break from the stresses of modern life, a Wellness Cruise may be just what the doctor ordered! Replenish your energy with Yoga, Pilates, Tai chi and exercise classes, all under the guidance of healthy living and nutritional coaches! Just as the bumbling Captain Stubing and his feel-good crew on The Love Boat promised us, set a course for adventure because there really IS something for everyone (curse that impossibly catchy theme song!).
Lastly, the ‘where’ is all about the destination. You may like to crisscross the Mediterranean Sea in search of history’s most fascinating ancient cities and sights, sail up Alaska’s majestic Inside Passage for a glimpse of the Northern Lights or jump aboard a South-East Asia cruise bound for exotic eastern ports in China, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Perhaps meandering leisurely down the magnificent rivers of the world such as the Nile, the Rhine or the Danube (those European Christmas markets!), is more your style? When I think of cruising, there’s one destination that boldly beckons from afar. With an estimated 10 million passengers in 2018, cruise travel to the stunning islands of the Caribbean dominate in popularity - and was at the top of my wishlist! Ah, the thought of warm sunny days, white sandy beaches with crystal clear water, palm trees swaying in the breeze and uber-friendly locals with welcoming smiles. All the while the gorgeous scenery floats past, serenely viewed from my stateroom balcony (fruity cocktail firmly in hand of course). So I did something about it……
Day 1: Embark Galveston, Texas
Boarding begins from 1 pm. It’s similar to going through customs at the airport but much smoother with well organised procedures, signage every step of the way and friendly cruise staff to help you pick your jaw up off the floor once you catch a glimpse of your home-away-from-home for the next seven glorious days.
Bypass the cute (but somewhat cheesy) family photo-opp snapped by the official cruise photographer as you stand in front of a giant print of the cruise ship (dude, we’ve got the real deal instead!)
Consider purchasing a package for wifi? Once upon a time, cruising at sea meant truly getting away from it all with little to no opportunity to connect to the internet onboard. But fast forward 10 or 15 years and cruise liners have invested millions of dollars into communication infrastructures. Connectivity at sea? No problem! While cruise internet comes at a price, you will find service and prices more similar to what you might be paying at home. But who needs wifi when you’re on a floating Disneyland right?..... Are you kidding?! Yes please, one internet package so that I can post, email, Skype, and Facetime the stunning Caribbean back home to everyone I know!
We grab our keycard from the check-in desk too. (Nifty little card not only gives you access to your room but acts as your on-board credit card, local weatherman and “ship-google” browser for all the daily news and activities low-down onboard). We get settled into our (surprisingly) spacious room.
As the ship finally pulls away from the Texas shore, we wave goodbye to all those vacation-envious wannabe’s left behind, and head off to explore all the nooks and crannies of the Liberty (now at) Sea - because there’s entertainment crammed into every level!
Day 2: At Sea
Can’t talk, still busy discovering new activities to try! And FYI, the Wave Rider and Tube Slide on the top deck have my name on them today kids!
Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico
Hola sunny Mexico, our first port of call! The family has opted for the ATV adventure ride to Jade Caverns today. Adventure-packed!
It’s such a thrill riding through the Mexican jungle on custom off-road ATV’s till you reach the rocky caverns. This unique natural area was once used by ancient Mayan civilisations and archaeological artifacts found within the caves have helped tell their story. The caves feature an endless ceiling of limestone stalactites and were named for the jade color of the water. Today, however, the water is an inky black! When you cup the water into your palms, you see that it’s actually crystal clear! Sediment on the cave floor from the rock formations gives the water its spooky look!
As we leisurely swim in the refreshingly cool water (the dirt road added to our high octane ATV fun but it’s nice to be clean again!), colonies of bats beat their wings above our heads. We jump off the 20-foot cliff into the water and swim under the formations once again before waving goodbye to our nocturnal (but kind of creepy) cave companions and head back to Cozumel town.
We’ve worked up an appetite with all that swimming! A local bar with delicioso authentic Mexican food and cocktails catches our eye. Oh my, Cozumel sure knows how to serve a cocktail! A mango daiquiri as big as a bucket joins my fish tacos. Yum.
A stroll through town helps to walk off all that deliciousness. A local market sells souvenir trinkets and crafty bits and pieces while street acrobats entertain us.
Satisfying exhaustion! An amazing day in Cozumel ends with the afternoon light when we head back on board and get ready for dinner. Room service has left amusing towel animals on the bed to greet us (Housekeeping cleans your room twice daily while you’re away enjoying activities!).
Day 4: George Town, Grand Cayman
Time for a Starbucks caffeine hit (yes, even here on board!) before disembarking in gorgeous George Town, Grand Cayman this morning.
Today we climb aboard an Amphibious Bus for a 2 hour Land & Sea Adventure to remember! We tour through George Town’s iconic sights before plunging headfirst into the sea to gape at the shipwrecks strewn on the bottom of the ocean! Carl our guide is informative and friendly and hands out bread to feed the waiting hordes of fish. It’s a feeding frenzy! Then back to shore for some chillax time.
Seven Mile Beach is stunning! After an exhilarating peek underwater from our aqua bus, we can’t wait to swim and snorkel the tranquil warm water of the Caribbean Sea, interspersed with some people watching. Local fishmongers sell their straight-out-of-the-sea wares right on the beach, and patrons can saunter the short distance to the restaurant to have their choice grilled perfectly for them. Lunch is served!
Back on board, we take in the live cirque-like show in the theatre room, then join in the hilarious game show performance afterward. So entertaining!
Late-night pizza anyone?
Day 5: Falmouth, Jamaica
I’m. So. EXCITED!!
Today, the beautiful shores of sunny Jamaica await us. After disembarking in Falmouth, we make our way to the famous Dunns River Falls Park along Jamaica’s golden coast and through the lush tropical jungle. Following the path and stairway that leads up to the base of the Falls, the sunny weather suddenly darkens. A magnificent cover of shadowy, ominous storm clouds roll into the bay and the breathtaking scene is like something out of a movie, adding a thrilling sense of danger to the anticipation of what’s to come! The climb to the top of the beautiful terraced waterfall begins as we follow our guide, steadily climbing up the rocky falls hand in hand, as a single human (aqua-socked!!) chain. It’s exhilarating! When we reach the top, we take the time to enjoy the beautiful scenery as we duck in and out of the cascading water.
Next on the agenda is white river tubing! We each jump on a tube and let the rapids of the river guide us through the jungle landscape. It’s so peaceful, floating and enjoying the warm sun that has once again pushed aside the clouds and beats down on us. Local kids run alongside the river waving and cheering us on. What an amazing morning!
When all the river play is done, we stop at a beachside resort for lunch. A makeshift restaurant has been set up on the beach for us to savour the taste of local Jamaican fare, fresh seafood, and Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Pork! After lunch, we wander down the road into the local village. Sometime later, we make our way back to the ship with armfuls of local trinkets, souvenirs, and fresh Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans are some of the most expensive in the world. Grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, this coffee is best known for its mild flavor and almost complete lack of bitterness, and it’s the best-tasting coffee in the world!
As we sail away from Jamaica’s lovely coastline, we take a moment to savour an incredible sunset, fiercely illuminating the few clouds in the sky with brilliantly vibrant oranges and reds. Life is good.
Day 6 & 7: At Sea
The next 2 days are spent at sea, with the ship leisurely retracing our path back to mainland US. Our lazy days are filled with activity on board! Rounds of mini-golf interspersed with one on one basketball and rock climbing. Burgers, fries and shakes at Johnny Rockets for lunch before an afternoon of competitive card games. Did someone say Ping Pong Tournament? Who could possibly pass up an opportunity to win a medal! Quick hands and lightning reflexes and we walk away with team bronze and silver medals – two positions on the podium!
There’s even time for a special dinner to celebrate a special birthday! A mouth-watering steak at one of the fantastic restaurants on board and our celebratory cruise is complete. I will never forget those amazing days under the Caribbean sky, quietly watching the sunrise from my balcony and settle back into the horizon at the end of the day, a glowing, fiery blaze. It truly is a magnificent part of the world!
Day 8: Disembark Galveston, Texas
With the glaring Texas sun once again warming our backs, we disembark for the last time and say goodbye to the Liberty of the Seas. What an adventure it’s been! Time to get home and upload all those amazing photos to Visual Memories Worth Keeping for a cracking ‘Caribbean Cruise’ addition to my coffee table’s travel photobook collection. I could choose to add VMWK's Cruise destination to my Travel World Map Wall Art set or get a custom designed set of wall art prints with my fabulous Caribbean photos!!. The choices are endless.....