I never get to spend enough time with my grandchildren. They’re getting older now, and very involved in their own activities. So when my daughter told me she’d booked a cruise on Royal Caribbean with them for the holidays, my husband and I offered to come along.
No matter which Royal Caribbean ship you cruise on — they have 20+ ships in their fleet, from smaller boats with fewer decks to 5,000-passenger Oasis-class ships — what you can count on is outstanding live shows and entertainment, flexible dining options, family-friendly cabin design, and a Kids Club for those 6 months to 17 years old. These are just some of the perks that make cruising with Royal Caribbean an ideal multi-gen vacation, especially for seniors.
For us, Royal Caribbean’s Allure Of The Seas provided the perfect backdrop to create lasting memories. I looked at the pictures of the ship out of Galveston, Texas, and knew it would be an over-the-top experience. The departure port and parking were convenient, so I embarked on the ship along with my daughter and her husband, plus their four children.
The cruise was fabulous, and we made so many wonderful memories together. Here are my key tips if you cruise on Royal Caribbean with your grandchildren.
Note: I was a guest of Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, but my opinions are my own.
1. Download The Royal Caribbean App As Soon As Possible
The Royal Caribbean International app allows you to do so many things, like plan your port excursions ahead of time or reserve activities like cupcake decorating or sushi-making classes — such fun things to do together. Many fill up and are sold out, so download the app, ASAP. You can also make show and dining reservations and buy beverage and internet packages. The best part is you can actually plan each day of your cruise before you even set sail.
Set Up Your Onboard Chats
If you’re cruising with extended family or friends, your most important communication is with them. “Where are you? What time are we going to dinner? are destined to be your most common queries. The app allows you to set up a chat with the members of your group by connecting to the free Wi-Fi.
You’ll see three dots in the top right. Open it and invite members of your party to join the chat. Once they accept your invitation to connect, you’re free to message them with pertinent details. It took me 2 days to figure this out.
2. Study The List Of Shows And Events
Mamma Mia!, Hairspray, and Grease are just a few of the popular onboard musicals offered by Royal Caribbean, and they’re all family-friendly. Make sure you make your reservations on your app as soon as you can, as the shows tend to fill up.
We loved the performance of Mamma Mia! and sang all of the songs together. The Ice Games show was spectacular, as well, keeping everyone mesmerized with skating skills, flips, and athletic prowess.
My granddaughter Riley really wanted to go to the ’70s party on the promenade. We joined hundreds of other disco lovers as we danced late into the night. Another evening, she wanted to do the HUSH Silent Party. She knew what it was. I had no idea. You put on headphones and tune into the same DJ spinning the songs. There’s no loud music to talk over and we had an awesome time belting out our favorite songs.
Karaoke and a Family Feud–style game also let us create great memories together. Ditto for the carousel and mini-golf on the Boardwalk.
What to take a spin on the ice yourself? Don your skates and off you go on the ice skating rink, available on all Voyager, Freedom and Oasis-class ships. If you dare, zipline across the ship or take the challenge on the rock climbing wall (found on Oasis-class ships); if not, watch your grandkids do it with ease. And for something a little tamer, ride the carousel at sea (found on Oasis-class ships) or try the bumper cars (found on Quantum-class ships).
3. Creatively Shout Out Your Family Name
It was very cute to see three and four generations of families all wearing the same T-shirts, hoodies, or pajamas on board. I wished I had thought of that.
4. Try New Things
This is your chance to be open to new experiences. When you go off on your shore excursions, take a moment to talk with the locals and ask them about their lives. Expose your grandchildren to different cultures, and give them a chance to broaden their understanding of a world very different from their own.
Even if you don’t choose an excursion, get off the boat and walk around the port. Taste a new fruit at a stand. Check out the local snacks, chips, and candies. You may acquire some new favorites. Buy some souvenirs that will provide a lasting memento of your adventures.
I brought my granddaughter to the Art Auction, and she learned about artists Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, and Peter Max. I think this is just the kind of thing that will stay with her.
5. Check Out The Adventure Ocean Kids’ Club
There are times when you all need a little downtime, and Royal Caribbean’s award-winning Kids Club is just the thing — plus it’s complimentary.
The clubs are divided into age groups, and trained professionals work with the kids. Aquanauts is for kids 3–5 where my grandson Blake had a ball singing, creating arts and crafts, and playing games with the others. Explorers is for children 6–8 and my other grandson, Rory, was happy to do science projects, talent shows, and ice cream parties. For tweens 9–12, my granddaughter Bella did karaoke, played video games, and went on backstage tours. I saw teens playing in basketball tournaments, enjoying FlowRider surf simulators, and ziplining over the boat. My granddaughter Riley was happy to hang out in the teen lounge with her other friends.
Note that the hours vary from sea days to port days. Extended babysitting hours are also available for a fee. All ships (besides the Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, and Jewel of the Seas) include nurseries for the littlest ones.
Pro Tip: Be sure to register your children on embarkation day. My daughter also signed a waiver so that both my husband and I could pick up the kids.
6. When In Port, Stay On Ship Time
Some of the ports we visited were in a different time zone, either an hour ahead or behind. Your best bet is to keep your watch on ship time so you don’t miss the boat when your ship is ready to depart. This is especially important if you’re on an excursion not sanctioned by the cruise line.
Pro Tip: Port days have different dining room schedules than sea days. Be sure to check the daily Cruise Compass to confirm their hours.
7. Explore All Onboard Dining Options
The great thing about Royal Caribbean is that they offer so many places to eat, from epicurean culinary adventures to something quick and easy at the Windjammer Buffet.
Kids love Johnny Rockets (an upcharge), but there are other specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean ships. Oasis-class ships have Boardwalk Hot Dogs and The Donut Shop in their Boardwalk neighborhoods, and most ships have Sorrento’s pizza, Cafe Promenade, and soft-serve ice cream stations that are included with your cruise.
If you’re looking for a quieter place to eat on an Oasis-class ship, head to the Park Café located in Central Park. They offer soup, salads, and sandwiches, along with great desserts. Once I discovered it, we had lunch there every day. I particularly enjoyed the make-your-own salad bar and prime rib sandwiches.
The same is true with the Solarium (found on every Royal Caribbean ship) for breakfast. They offer the same delicious hot and cold buffet as the Windjammer, but it’s much smaller and easier to find your group or to find a place for your group.
8. Bring That Hawaiian Shirt
We were hesitant about packing one of those colorful Hawaiian shirts, but my husband was glad he did. He wore it several times, especially at Caribbean night.
9. Take Your Formal Pictures Before Your Last Night
We had planned to take cruise pictures on the last night, but there were no formal photography services or backdrops available. So we ran around the ship in our jeans with matching-colored t-shirts and found some cute spots to take our own.
10. Take Shore Excursions
Part of the joy of cruising is having new experiences in port that range from exotic beaches, ATV adventures, cultural experiences, and outdoor recreation. Before you decide which excursions to book, talk to your grandkids about what interests them, and go from there.
Royal Caribbean offers an amazing collection of remarkable shore excursions on the island of Barbados: you can swim with the turtles, and observe sea turtles in their natural habitat. Hike through the rainforest and go tubing in an underground cave system in Belize. Visit the Chacchoben Ruins in Costa Maya. Your grandkids will love to swim with the stingrays in the shallow sandbars of Grand Cayman. Sailing with Royal Caribbean to the Bahamas means a stop at CocoCay, their own private island with access to a beautiful beach, food, drinks, and more.
The Allure stopped in British Honduras as well as Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. Snorkeling, diving, and visiting Gumbalimba Park to hang out with monkeys and parrots was the highlight of Roatan, Honduras. Costa Maya is a little more laid back, and we went ashore to buy some of the artisan crafts. In Cozumel, we visited a chocolate factory to watch the manufacturing process. Of course, we got to sample the delicious chocolate and bring a few bars home.
All too soon it was time to return and go ashore in Galveston, but we were filled with memories of quality family time we spent together and adventures we would never forget aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure.
Pro Tip: If disabilities are an issue for you or your party, not to worry. There were plenty of people aboard enjoying the cruise in walkers, wheelchairs, and motorized vehicles.
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