So you have a few kids. Maybe a little more than a few. Perhaps 3 or 4 or 5 or more, because you’re crazy like we are, I mean brave with hearts exploding with love like ours (it’s probably a little of both). And now you want to travel, but it seems like nothing is designed to fit your extended brood except for minivans. We feel it too! But options ARE out there. It may come as a surprise to you that one of the best options is CRUISING – a luxurious, affordable and fun way to travel with a large family!
WHAT WE WILL COVER IN THIS POST:
- What rooms to book for a larger family and when to book
- What Royal Caribbean ships have to offer – Luxury and Family Fun
- Cruise tips and logistics for families
HOW DO WE KNOW?!
We have tried other cruise lines, but at the risk of sounding cheesy…we are now loyal to Royal!! We have been cruising with Royal Caribbean for years. My parents are Diamond Members of Royal’s Crown and Anchor Society and my family of 6 is on our way to earning those member benefits as well. We have been to Bermuda, Alaska, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean with our kids on Royal ships. My parents have been EVERYWHERE. Our family trusts in the brand because they consistently deliver a superior cruise experience in all areas – service, entertainment, food and accommodations. But what is most important is that Royal Caribbean is the most family friendly cruise line. As we have grown as a family over the last 10 years and our needs have changed, we have not had to give up our comfort and travel style because Royal has provided a big opportunity for larger families like ours to stay together.
WHAT TO BOOK
Designed for up to 6 guests, the Ultra Spacious Oceanview stateroom is the perfect option for larger families with young children because we need space!!!
This stateroom category is approximately 270 sq. ft. and has plenty of room for everyone to spread out and for us to keep our luggage out of sight. There is a king bed, a pull-out sofa and a two bunks. In this case, the bunks are set apart in their own alcove as you first walk in. Warning – this is novel and there will be fighting over the bunks. We do not recommend 4 children sleeping in the top bunk. Depending on the ship and the deck level, the layout will vary.
The ultra-spacious oceanview rooms are often forward, meaning at the front of the ship. Our room looked out directly over the bow of the ship and the kids loved being able to see where we were headed at all times.
The streamers pictured hanging in the stateroom do not come standard in every room, although every cruise should be treated like a party! They are part of a celebration package you can order prior to sailing. Our daughter turned 11 on the cruise so I arranged to have this waiting for her when we arrived. We value options like this that allow us to customize our experience!
- Family Interior Stateroom – sleeps 6 with a similar layout, minus the view (obvs)
- Family Connected Junior Suite – this is an option on select ships that connects more than one room/suite to sleep up to 10 people
- Royal Family Suite – sleeps up to 8 people in over 550 sq. ft. with 2 separate bedrooms and bathrooms
- Connecting staterooms – this is always an option and often perfect for larger families with older children. The plus side is having 2 bathrooms and the ability to close connecting doors for privacy.
WHEN TO BOOK
- I am not going to lie, you need to be on the ball. Royal Caribbean has thought of everything with an amazing range of options; however, the availability on each ship is limited and larger capacity rooms are often booked a year or more in advance of a sailing, especially if that sailing is during prime vacation time – summer, winter break, spring break, etc.
- We booked our ultra-spacious oceanview room for our Mediterranean cruise in April 2018 for a July 2019 sailing date. For those who like to book last minute, these options may be gone. However, cancellations are always possible and you never know when rooms might become available. You will just have to keep checking.
- You must call Royal Caribbean directly or your travel agent to book these rooms because the Royal website does not allow rooms for more than 4 to be booked online.
WHAT ROYAL CARIBBEAN OFFERS: LUXURY AND FAMILY FUN!
Exceptional service, relaxation, pampering and premiere food and beverages await you around every corner of the ship. The dining room provides a formal atmosphere and excellent meals. We ate there most evenings and for some sit-down breakfasts. Even the mundane request for some chocolate chip cookies for dessert is honored with attention to detail. Warning – your kids will start to expect cookies on a silver platter at home.
There are also specialty restaurants (for an extra fee). Our family enjoyed Sabor, which features delicious tradition Mexican cuisine and beverages in a laid back atmosphere, prepared creatively and with incredible presentation.
The Vitality Spa offers a wide range of services and I highly recommend booking at least 2 or 3. This last cruise, we booked hair services and a pedicure.
This brings me to my next point – yes, I am holding a Starbucks coffee. On Oasis of the Seas, you don’t have to leave your coffee habit at home because there is a full-service Starbucks on board. THAT is luxury.
FAMILY FUN AND FAMILY-FRIENDLINESS
There are ENDLESS opportunities for families to enjoy their time while cruising!
Sports and Adventure – For the adventurous spirit, there is rock climbing, zip-lining, ice skating (I’m not kidding), sports such as basketball, table tennis, mini-golf and even surfing (on the FlowRider surf simulator)! We did not try everything, as there are height and weight requirements for some acitivites, but our kids did enjoy the rock wall, mini golf and ice skating!
Pools and Splash Fun – There are several options for the kids to get wet! Pools, hot tubs, water toys (who doesn’t want to use a giant water gun?) and splash pads. There is always something scheduled by the pool like musical entertainment or if you’re up to being the focus of attention, organized belly-flop contests (we chose to be just spectators).
Shops and ship attractions – On a ship like Oasis of the Seas, you can spend a week onboard and still be exploring on your last day. Our kids loved spending time on the Boardwalk. Yes, that is a carousel…
The Boardwalk also features a candy shop, balloon animals, an arcade and a complimentary hot dog stand. It is like taking your kids to a fair!
Onboard entertainment – As if all the above entertainment isn’t enough, there are scheduled shows of all kinds provided by world-class entertainers and athletes. We attended an amazing production of CATS in the theatre, a family-friendly magic show, a family-friendly comedy act, an ice skating show and a dive show, which included stunning high dives and aerial feats. For cruisers who want to be part of the entertainment, there are karaoke nights, game shows, trivia contests and BINGO games.
Ocean Adventure Program – Royal Caribbean also offers a top-rated Kids’ Club! You can register your children and drop them off so you can enjoy a meal or a drink or a show on your own! You read that right: On. Your. Own! My kids absolutely loved going to the kids’ club. The club staff is top-notch and your kids can enjoy daily scheduled activities like games and crafts revolving around a daily theme, such as pirates or the circus. There is something for all age groups from 3 – teen.
So now you want to book a cruise with Royal Caribbean right now. You should! The choices are world-wide and range from quick getaways to several-weeks-long adventures. Here are a few tips to remember:
- Make sure everyone has a valid (as in, not expired!) passport, even the kids.
- After booking, log in to the Royal Caribbean website to start planning and customizing your vacation – shore excursions and even shows on the ship can and should be booked in advance.
- If you have someone in your family prone to motion sickness, consult with your doctor about options before you go. We have never had a problem with this but we know that staying in your stateroom is NOT the answer!
- Pack some fancy clothing! There is always a formal night or two. While these are optional, we love the opportunity to get dressed up and take some nice family portraits. When the kids are dressed up, they tend to behave more maturely. See?
- After you embark, visit the dining room to make sure you are happy with your table, check out the beverage packages (we always find that we don’t drink enough to splurge for a package so we pay à la carte for alcohol and sodas), book a wi-fi package so you can use text messaging on board. This is essential for families with kids.
- Consult the daily Cruise Compass and Ocean Adventure guide for kids (these are lists of scheduled activities that will be delivered to your stateroom daily). There are many activities, demonstrations, lessons and opportunities I haven’t discussed in this post.
- Take advantage of the photographers onboard and toward the end of the cruise, visit the photo gallery where you can view and select the best photos for purchase. We always get a few as keepsakes…
I hope this post has convinced you that Royal Caribbean is the best option for you and your kids. Feel free to email me with any questions.
ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE! See you at sea…