If you read last year’s post, you know that we went on a cruise. This year we did it again and I can’t say enough great things.
This Christmas’ cruise was amazing. Let’s look at the specifics first.
7 Day Cruise on Harmony of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Drove to Florida, again
This ship was huge. The largest current cruise ship in the world
This is an absolutely beautiful model of the ship. It’s pretty cool.
Now let’s talk about the experience and it was an experience indeed.
- This ship is a sight to see. It’s fantastic from front to back, left to right.
- The amenities were spot on. There were so many fun things to do on the ship that I honestly could have stayed on board and been perfectly fine.
- Some of the things on ship were water slides, dry slides, rock climbing walls, carousels, zip line, mini golf, theaters, ice skating and much more.
- The pools were excellent.
- The shows were well done and outstanding. I’m not a huge show guy, but these were impressive.
- The food was phenomenal. There were some great specialty restaurants as well as the normal main dining.
- There was a full scale Starbucks on board! Talk about a happy cruiser!
- Though I did harp that there were a lot of kids on the ship, there was equally a lot for them to do.
- Our stateroom was much larger than last year. I continue to stress that everyone get a stateroom with seaside balcony. This ship even had balconies that faced inward and some that looked out over the back of the ship.
- The staff was very polite and again, made me feel welcome and appreciated all week.
- The ports of call were outstanding. I’d rank them St. Maarten, San Juan and then Labadee.
- Having two days at sea to start was really cool. I like having the multiple days at sea towards the middle of the cruise, however this was a pleasant change.
- This is not an exhaustive list of good things by any means. But I don’t want to keep you from reading last year’s experience.
- I hate to say it, but I think this ship was too large for my taste. At no time did I ever not feel like there were 6,000+ people on the ship.
- The beverage package changed and it left me lacking my daily free Starbucks hit. I could use my Starbucks card, but I couldn’t use my free rewards.
- Though the ship was huge the lay out of the Grand Promenade felt cramped. (Especially on the sales day, where there was tons of stuff for sale and tons of people walking around.) But don’t get me wrong, the sun there is just as amazing and some of my best pics were of these mountains resting over the beach in the distance.
- One port of call was only a few hours. I suppose that it took longer to park the ship than we were actually out enjoying Old San Juan.
- The gym was nice, but due to its placement on the ship it smelled like cigarettes.
- I am not sure who planned it like this, but on the Harmony the steam room and sauna is a pay to use service. I’ve never heard of that.
- This isn’t a Royal Caribbean problem at all. However, this ship’s size and appeal brought about something every school teacher dreads. There were a lot of kids on the ship. Most of them were very respectful and polite. However, there were quite a few that made my teacher ire rise.
- I am glad I tried other restaurants. I am very thankful for the Windjammer, but it’s not my thing anymore.
- I write this with great sadness, but I kept getting lost on the ship. It’s not anyone’s fault, but mine. I just had a bear of time keeping my bearings. I ended up taking the stairs A LOT.
- I’m over Labadee. Though it’s a specimen of beauty, I’m over the beach and the hustle of the island. The beach is very rocky and really not that fun. The beach is beautiful, but the water and shore was tough to walk on.
- Next time I’d certainly go on a tour or an excursion on Labadee.
- Be careful with the Wi-Fi. Being able to access the net is a great thing and it wasn’t that expensive at all. However, it’s very easy to just get sucked into staring at your phone, iPad or whatever. I had to catch my own self and not get caught just staring at social media.
I am very glad I was able to take my family on this trip. There’s really nothing that I would say I’d honestly change. I go back to school in two days. I’m rested and ready to make this semester our best semester so far.
I’m sure you know that Team Whitaker cruise #3 has already been booked.
This Christmas Team Whitaker did something totally off the reservation. We went on a cruise rather than the usual Christmas adventures. Love the extended family and all the Christmas fa-la-la-la, but I am sure we’re going to make this an every other year event for sure.
- 7 night Western Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean
- Booked way back in July so the trip was paid for and ready back in October
- Drove to Florida rather than fly so we could enjoy the ship a little more
Captain Fearless Ice Skating
DD1 Got to help with the bingo night
Adventure girl eating lobster
My baby shark
I would pay for this every time
Operation Dark Child
Romwod at Sea
My faux golfers
I will be back, trust
They were like fish in water
Dreamwork vs. Disney
So many beautiful pics
The hustle cup!
Our last day
Dreamwork vs. Disney
Our home for a week
Operation Dark Child in full effect
My thoughts over all. I am going to start with the bad, cause I had to think the hardest to find something that wasn’t great.
- No wi-fi (Later on this is going to be a good thing)
- I left our chargers in the car. Thankfully a lady loaned me one and that kept the party rolling.
- The beverage package, I enjoy my Starbucks daily, were out of line!
- I had to make a concerted effort to drink enough water and I didn’t do a good job at that.
- The Wind Jammer cafe wasn’t jamming.
- There were some super windy days.
- I didn’t schedule a regular dinner reservations ahead of time. I won’t make that mistake again.
- The RC cruise cup is a real bonfide hustle! $22 dollars a day for adults and $15 for kids PER DAY! That was going to break down to something like $200+ for these cups to get unlimited drinks. I did break down and get a cup for myself and shared it with the family. If I had brought my own travel cup I would’ve been A-OK. (It did get my free Starbucks, but we’ll talk about that later, too)
- The 1st night the ship was rocky! I think it had something to do with how windy it was. Both just seemed really odd.
- It was my choice to travel during Christmas, but if you’re someone who likes the snowy, wintery feel of Christmas time-this isn’t your trip. The ship was decorated perfectly. However, it still didn’t feel Christmasy. This might be what it’s like for other parts of the world who don’t have the winters we have in the States.
- Though it’s “off season”, the ship was still full. Lots of fun people watching.
- I hope this blog gets seen my RC higher ups. I want to give big props to the staff of the Freedom of the Seas. They were outstanding.
- Stateroom attendant-AMAZING!
- Main Dinning room Staff-Spectacular. They remembered my girls names and their drinks. They were kind and listened to Taylor ramble on about being Bat Girl.
- The Espresso on the Promenade-may have stole the entire cruise for me. The Starbucks team was amazing. And I can be super picky about my SB, but Janet, John and that team were outstanding. I only regret that I didn’t stop by Sunday on my way off ship to say good bye.
- The entire staff were very kind and always looked the part. I know you can’t always be on your A-game, but every time I met someone they were smiling and had a cheery voice. Good on your Royal C!
- Assata, a member of the entertainment staff, appointed Trina the BINGO Mascot. Trina was able to assist with raffles and even was included in game.
- No wifi! I spent the 1st two days getting used to my phone not getting notifications and me feelings as if I “had” to check in. We did find a few wifi cafes at port, but if I hadn’t found them it would’ve been ok. It was a forced detox from technology.
- Reading books isn’t a lost art. Sitting on the deck people watching, I noticed a lot of people with thick novels reading. Not a lot of e-readers or tablets. Lots of reading going on. Now when we all got to port and had access to cell networks it was life as normal.
- Cabin size was perfect for Team Whitaker. Next time though, the girls are getting their own room. Or next time I am going to spring for a suite. Those things are HUGE!
- The food was amazing! I wasn’t impressed with the open buffet, The Wind Jammer. However, the restaurants on ship made up for it in spades. Great service and excellent food. Each night my girls got to try out a new food. From escargot to lobster tail. They tried it all.
- I am not the guy who has to swim every time I see a pool. My girls do want to swim all the time. So relaxing by the pool wasn’t happening all the time.
- The on-board TV programming is fun. My kids discovered old 1960-70’s cartoons on ToonCast. Couldn’t get them to turn it off.
- Our cabin was located close to the forward and it was PERFECT. The spray from the ocean didn’t reach us and it was high enough to see for miles and miles.
- I know everyone wants to go on a Disney Cruise. I am not a big Disney fan. Royal Caribbean has partnered with DreamWorks. I’d suggest that if you’re saving your money to pay a premium for a Disney cruise that you look into a Royal Caribbean as well.
- Top tier kids activities
- Very kid/family friendly activities for all
- Movies, games and shows directly for the kids
- Everyday the kids could meet DW characters
- All this was free, no up charge or premium
- The Ship’s compass (on board news paper) is the best. There’s so much to do on the ship. You would have to try to be bored on this cruise.
- The ports of call Labadee, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel were amazing. Lots to see, do and experience. You can tell that a lot of time went into making each one of these memorable.
- 7 days were perfect. Actually, I would be open to a longer cruise. If a shorter one is what’s in the budget, do it! If you can spare the change go for a 7 day cruise. The “at sea” days are a precious gift. You don’t feel compelled to go ashore and you know that from Aft to Forward there’s stuff for the family to do. So if you decided to sit o the balcony for 4 hours and think it’s ok.
- I did a great job packing for the trip. Two formal nights almost got me, but I was ready. Be sure to check your dress code registry for the main dining room.
A few more ideas:
- Bring a water bottle or canister. You’re going to want water far more than the beverages on the ship. Though the readied availability of soda, tea and coffee is amazing, I needed water.
- If you have kids or a lot of family, get some walkie talkies! You won’t regret it.
- The earlier the better the later the greater. If you don’t have a scheduled dinning time go to breakfast early and dinner late. The dinning rooms aren’t nearly as full early and late. Most people are on vacation and want to sleep in.
- You can make your own dinner reservations and it’s just like having a scheduled time. We even had the same table 5 out of the 7 nights.
- Get a room with a balcony! Nuf said.
- The ship will give you Dramamine patch if you suffer from motion sickness.
- If you’re going to the ports of call with the intention of chilling and relaxing, soaking up some rays, I suggest that you get off the ship as soon as you can find a spot on the beach and start soaking. By the time I got to the beach, I was ready to nap and head back. Should’ve stayed longer.
- Pack early so you have time to change out or add stuff as needed.
- RC encourages you to not pack your medications, but put them in a carry-on. I thought no need for that, but my wife thought differently. I am glad she did. A little bag of trusty go-to’s such as Aleve, Mucinex, Pepto, and Ricola were all appreciated by someone in our stateroom at least once.
- Get your passports early. The stress of traveling would only be increased by not having all your passport info in place.
This is the most relaxed I’ve ever been heading into New Year’s. My mind is clear and I’m looking forward with great expectations. Now, if I can find a set of walkie talkies, I can book our next trip!
Starting to look a lot like Christmas
I enjoy maps
Cabin doors were decorated, too
Some of the pool happenings
The ships library