Just Cruising

Balcony of Ocean Princess

Balcony of Ocean Princess

Drop your bags, roam around the ship, eat whatever you wish whenever you want, dance all night, sail into a new port each day, sip wine on your balcony, see Broadway shows, comedy shows, shop or just sit by a pool and do nothing. It’s a feeling that you can’t really describe…freedom to let loose, bliss, bon voyage……

Princess Cruise Lines

Cabin on the Ocean Princess

Cabin on the Ocean Princess

My first experience cruising was in 1991 on Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Ocean Princess at Civitavecchia cruise port, Rome

Ocean Princess at Civitavecchia cruise port, Rome

I remember certain things such as formal dining, midnight buffets, ice sculpture carvings and the rocking of our ship. Aside from that, I can’t remember much.

We started out small and moved up to the largest passenger cruise ship in the world.

In 2009, I cruised to the Mediterranean with my grandmother, sister and mom on Princess Cruise Lines. We chose a smaller ship due to traveling with my grandmother, as it is easy to get around – less decks. The drawback of the smaller ships – there is less to do!! It was the perfect ship for taking my grandmother. My sister and I were the age of the grandchildren on board!! It was primarily and senior boat. I personally, would not recommend a small ship if you like entertainment, activities and various dining options. Princess overall is a great cruise line and their food is probably the best out of all the cruise lines I’ve experienced. The Ocean Princess is an older ship with only one main pool, very dated rooms and décor.

Rooms: We had a room with a balcony which I highly recommend. It is nice to have the fresh air flowing through your room, a view while sailing into the ports each morning, a place to journal and have a glass of wine and a place to dry your swimsuit or hang dry your clothes. The fresh air really comes in handy if someone in your room is ill. The balconies are not cheap! In fact on some cruise lines charge almost triple the price per person for a balcony. For example, when booking early (a year in advance) a 7 day cruise may start around $599 per person. When booking a room with a balcony, it is more in the range $1300-1700 per person. On Royal Caribbean the first two people in a cabin are full price and every person after that is half price. I believe the maximum number of people to a cabin is 4 unless upgrading to a suite. Once you have sailed with a balcony it is very difficult to go back to a port hole. Much like flying first class and then going back to coach.

Safety briefing

Safety briefing

Explore: When boarding a cruise ship, the first thing you want to do is explore every deck.

Safety briefing

Safety briefing

Many of the restaurants and shops are not open until the ship sets sail, but this is your time to get familiar!! Check out the decks, night clubs, theater shows, dining areas, gift shops, comedy clubs, pools, etc. Be advised that on the first day, a mandatory safety briefing will take place. On the Ocean Princess it was in a dining hall and took forever as they repeated the briefing in multiple languages.

Activities: A daily planner is provided in the room and throughout the ship to inform the passengers of the activities taking place, the time and location. We like to sit down as a family the night before and go through all of the scheduled activities for the next day. Then circle what we want to do and take the planner with us around the ship the next day. There are literally events every 10 minutes and it is impossible to do it all! So look for the activities or shows that are offered multiple times throughout the week and be sure not to miss the ones which are only offered once. For example, we wanted to see the Belly Flop Contest on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. It was only offered once, so we made sure to meet up at the time of the show in the Aqua Theater.

Formal Dining Room

Formal Dining Room

Dining: The fine dining on Princess Cruise lines was great!

Breakfast in the Dining Room

Breakfast in the Dining Room

They offered seafood, steaks, even lobster one night – order as many items as you like. The wait staff were top of the line. They knew all of our names and addressed us as such each evening. If you like coffee with your dessert- they know that by the second night and automatically bring it to the table with your dessert.

The daily cafeteria options were mediocre but fresh, offering pizza, mac n cheese, salads, fruits and some seafood items, but the main dining room and most of the restaurants were very good. One great thing about Princess, is that the daily cafeteria is open all day. On other cruises the café closes between meals for a couple of hours.

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

The Baked Alaska celebration!!!

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

Very cheesy but lots of fun!! The lights go down, the music goes up, waiters start singing, clapping and dancing around the formal dining room. What is this all about?? Variations on the dish itself go back to the early 19th century. Baked Alaska is known as “America’s Big Desert”. The baked Alaska today is a mix of ice cream and sponge cake, topped with meringue and  then heated or flambéed. However, on Princess they didn’t even use meringue – rather jet puff marshmallow cream! Ewww. The name baked Alaska comes from the New  York restaurant Delmonico’s in 1867 coinciding with the U.S. acquisition of Alaska from Russia.John Maxtone-Graham describes a dinner in his classic The Only Way to Cross on the maiden voyage of Hamburg-America Line’s 1905  American which “the lights were dimmed and from the kitchen came  squads of waiters bearing overhead a sizzling combination of fire and ice.”  This caught on to the cruise world in the late 1950s or early 1960s when Baked Alaska Parade began appearing on ships. I did not experience the Baked Alaska dance on Royal Caribbean- the item was offered on the menu though.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Announcements: Be sure to check out the specials on board. Princess is great about announcing what is happening on board at all times. For example, we were at the pool and an announcement came on about Bangers and Beer lunch special that was starting in the English pub. We went there, checked it out and beers were at a reduced rate and the lunch was free of course. The entire menu was pub style which was not offered any other day.

Wine Package: I highly recommend the wine package!!! If you are expecting to drink wine on board, check out the wine packages in advance or as you board the ship. It is very pricey by the glass in the main dining room. However, if you book a package in advance sometimes you save 30-40% off the prices on board. On Princess, they cork the wine for you and store it in the dining room. They will bring it to your table the next evening as you dine.

High Tea

High Tea

High tea

High tea

High Tea time!!! Princess offered high tea daily from 1-3 p.m. while out to sea on the Ocean Princess.

It was held in the dining room complete with silver rolling carts, china, tea cups, finger sandwiches and cookies all with a view of the Mediterranean. High tea was something that we did almost daily since we were traveling with all women. It is actually quite filling and kept us up all night the first night because we were drinking caffeine until 3 p.m.!! I recommend decaf tea if it is late in the afternoon.

Liberty of the Seas

Liberty of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

Kids on the Royal Promenade

Kids on the Royal Promenade

Formal Dining

Formal Dining

After cruising to the Mediterranean, I just had to take my family!!!

We searched for a family cruise line which offers something for everyone. First, we looked at Disney Cruise Lines as I saw their ship, the Disney Magic, in Barcelona and it was a rocking time on board. They had a rock climbing wall, music playing on the top deck (which we heard from our ship) and water slides. Unfortunately, the Disney Magic left the Mediterranean the year that we wanted to sail – 2012. So we continued to research and ask around. Time and time again people said Royal Caribbean was the best cruise line for families. After looking at their website, we instantly knew that our family would love it!! We booked a 7 night cruise with Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas ship on the Mediterranean – spending the first week in Barcelona where the ship would depart.

Basketball court On Liberty of the Seas

Basketball court On Liberty of the Seas

Choosing a ship: Where to begin??? With Royal Caribbean the sky’s the limit!!!

Running track on Liberty of the Seas

Running track on Liberty of the Seas

There is no way to do and see everything in one week! There is so much going on all at once on multiple decks. To start off, Royal Caribbean has 7 different classes for the 22 ships in their fleet. We have sailed on the Oasis Class (6500 passengers) and the Freedom Class (4000 passengers) which both offer the Flow Rider Surf Simulators. My kids love this feature- so we will try to only cruise on these classes.

Arcade on board

Arcade on board

Oasis Class offers much more than the other classes because of it’s size. The drawback is that they only sail on the Caribbean. I highly recommend the Freedom Class because they are offer almost the same options as the Oasis Class (with the exception of the zip line, Aqua Theater, Boardwalk and Central Park area) and they sail to various destinations. The Royal Caribbean website is very user friendly. It allows you to do everything on line and what I like about Royal Caribbean better than Princess is that you have the option to prepay everything! Prepay all tips and excursions in advance and not worry about having a large bill when you depart – depending on how much alcohol you drink but you can even prepay an alcohol package. If it is your first time booking a cruise- check out the “new to cruising” section of their website.

Chocolate shake at Madagascar breakfast

Chocolate shake at Madagascar breakfast

In November 2014, the Quantum of the Seas will sail it’s maiden voyage. The Quantum is the first cruise ship to offer bumper cars, 23 feet of sky diving in a simulator, roller staking rink, virtual balconies, modular staterooms and a sky capsule that ascends 300 feet above the ship offering 360 degree views. The Quantum will remain in the Caribbean and only offer itineraries for that area. The Oasis of the Seas ship will be heading to Europe and leaving the Caribbean at the same time. Now there will finally be an option to sail on one of the largest passenger ships in the world  in Europe.

Oh the convenience of a Sea Pass card!!! Lock your wallet in the safe and leave it there until you depart, as there isn’t any cash nor credit cards accepted on board. It is such a stress free way to travel. All you need is your Sea Pass card. It gets you on and off the ship, charge your shopping or drinks to the card, and it’s even your room key!! The great thing about Royal Caribbean is that they have lanyards for the kids to put their card in. Once those lanyards go on- we didn’t allow them to take it off. You can gamble in the casino with the card and the kids can charge video games in the arcade. Scary! It allows independence for the kids and the parents. Our kids know the deal and they are very responsible about keeping their Sea Pass cards with them at all times.

Character Breakfast

Character Breakfast

DreamWorks Experience:

Madagascar Menu

Madagascar Menu

Royal Caribbean offers the Dream Works experience on several of their ships such as the Allure, Oasis, Freedom, Liberty, Voyager, and Mariner of the Seas. Characters walk around and take pictures with the passengers. The total experience includes your favorite characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and other DreamWorks Animation films at character dining, shows, 3D movies, and surprise appearances. Our favorite is the DreamWorks parade with the music and dancing characters- it’s just like being at Disneyland but your out to sea.

Julian from Madagascar

Julian from Madagascar

The parade lasts about 15 minutes and you must get down to the promenade early to grab a great view! It gets crowded and they rope off the area for the parade. Many of the bars and lounges along the promenade have a seating area where to sit and have a view of the parade. Those seats fill up fast.

The character breakfast theme was chocolate- this meant the entire menu had chocolate incorporated into it somehow. The muffins, pastries, cookies, pancakes, waffles and more were all chocolate. The kids even got hot chocolate and a chocolate shake for breakfast! Each character comes around to the table for photo ops and a master of ceremonies hosts the event. The character breakfast is something you need to book in advance on line. It doesn’t costs anything but fills up fast. It is by reservation only and is held in the formal dining area at breakfast time.

Gloria from Madagascar

Gloria from Madagascar

Chocolate muffins

Chocolate muffins

The DreamWorks theme is great for all ages, whereas Disney tends to be for the younger crowd. The DreamWorks events around the ship are something that is noted on the daily Compass (calendar) but the ship doesn’t have a theme so to speak. It’s not like the Disney ships where everything is Disney and Mickey ears. Some passengers are probably not even aware that DreamWorks characters are on board.   The 3D DreamWorks movies are something that the entire family will enjoy on board!!!

H2O Zone

H2O Zone

H2O Zone: The kids were in heaven when they saw the H2O Zone on board.

H2O Zone

H2O Zone

It is a pool area just for kids!! It includes a water park, loaded with interactive geysers shooting out from colorful, climbable creations, plus water guns, pools, and waterfalls. It’s great because it’s a separate section where kids can run all over, scream, make noise, shoot water guns, splash while the parents lay out in lounge chairs far enough away to not get splashed but still able to observe. There is a large pool above ground which looks like a clear tank and it is a whirlpool that the kids can float and be pushed around by the current. There are also hot tubs in the H2O Zone which are not too hot and they have big TV screens that play movies above.

Cup Cake Cupboard

Cup Cake Cupboard

The Cupcake Cupboard: The kids loved the cupcake decorating classes,

Cupcake decorating class

Cupcake decorating class

not to mention the amazingly gigantic cupcakes available for purchase at the Cupcake Cupboard. The shop is set in an adorable 1940s-style, featuring fresh-baked gourmet cupcakes, plus private decorating parties and cupcake design classes. The classes are held in the cute, little bakery shop that is decorated in everything cupcakes! The classes are 30 minutes long and offered separately for adults and children. Each day the class is something different.

Money Cupcake

Monkey Cupcake

The kids decorated cupcakes to look like a monkey and we saw other people who attended a class on decorating a dog cupcake.

Cupcake Cupboard

Cupcake Cupboard

So fun and so cute!

Most of all- you can eat what you bake. We dropped our kids off and let them decorate while we went to the pub.

The Cupcake Cupboard is available on Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, and Oasis-class ships. They sell a recipe book which includes all of the recipes for their cupcakes and how to decorate them.

Cupcake design class

Cupcake design class

The fee for the decorating class is $15 and you can prepay on line prior to the cruise.

Cookbook at Cupcake Cupboard

Cookbook at Cupcake Cupboard

Don’t wait to book the reservation on board because it will book up fast, especially on out to sea days. The design classes would be fun to take as couples or with friends. It is not just for kids!! It is nearly impossible to enter the bakery shop without purchasing a cupcake.

There is a fee to purchase cupcakes at the Cupboard. I believe they are around $2.50 each and they are HUGE!! You can share. One cupcake is large enough for two people and you should really eat it with a fork. Just a hint- of you see one you want, buy it because they have different flavors each day. We learned that the hard way.

Ice Rink on the Allure

Ice Rink on the Liberty

Ice Skating time

Ice Skating time

Ice Skating: Growing up on Kauai, our kids have never experienced ice skating. Head on down to Studio B and check out the ice rink. Where you can go skating or watch several professional ice shows. The kids and I watched a show themed on the DreamWorks movie How to Train Your Dragon. The costumes and the music were amazing. The kids were so excited to not only ice skate, but ice skate while out to sea!!

Royal Caribbean provides the skates and helmet and there isn’t a reservation required. The sessions are not very long, really not long enough to learn how to ice skate. The sessions run about 20 minutes, the rink is very small but there is comfortable, theater seating for parents to sit and watch. All skaters must wear long socks and pants. Who owns long socks anymore? Certainly not people who reside on Kauai.

Rock Climbing on the Liberty

Rock Climbing on the Liberty

Rock Climbing Wall:

Rock Climbing on the Allure

Rock Climbing on the Allure

Royal Caribbean offers a rock climbing wall which actually looks quite high when standing below. It can get a bit tricky trying to climb up while the boat is rocking away. Anyone can rock climb, from beginners to speed climbers, everyone can enjoy an unparalleled view from 43 feet above deck. Rock climbing is free and there is no reservation required. Royal Caribbean provides the helmet and you wear socks and tennis shoes. The rock climbing wall was closed down at times due to high winds. On the Liberty of the Seas ship, it is located on the sports deck by the basketball courts.

On the Allure of the Seas ship, the rock climbing wall is at the Aqua Theater. So when you are climbing the wall, everyone in the Aqua Theater seating is watching. At night it is light up with violet and deep purple lights which looks very cool next to the aqua blue water and fountains in the Aqua Theater.

FlowRider

FlowRider

FlowRider Surf:

FlowRider Surf Simulator

FlowRider Surf Simulator

The most popular attraction on board according to our kids is the FlowRider surf simulator where you can catch a wave right on board. Grab a boogie board and or just surf on the 40-foot-long surf simulator. There is stadium seating with prime wipe-out views for parents or spectators to cheer on friends. We will be sure to book a ship which has the FlowRider on it since our kids spent so much of the week there.

Allure of the Seas at St. Maarten Port

Allure of the Seas at St. Maarten Port

Allure of the Seas, largest passenger cruise ship in the world!!!

After having a taste of what Royal Caribbean had to offer on the Liberty of the Seas, we decided to go a little bigger with more options. We weren’t sure if we would like it. Yes, there’s more to offer on board (a lot more) but there are also 6500 people, 7 separate neighborhoods and 18 decks!! Why the neighborhoods? The neighborhoods were designed so that attractions are grouped into several themed sectors of the ship, each designed to appeal to different clientele. That seemed so massive that we couldn’t help but wonder if there would be long lines, if we would want the kids to go off alone and if there would be swarms of people everywhere. We booked a week cruise on the Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale. We really didn’t have a desire to travel to the Caribbean, as we live on Kauai but that is the only place that the large Royal Caribbean ships sail.

The Oasis Class ships are enormous!! To our surprise, everything was highly organized. Boarding and departing the ship was so fast!!! They really have it down. We waited about 45 minutes when boarding because we arrived early to the port but Royal Caribbean had a nice, air conditioned warehouse waiting area with vending machines. They continue to make announcements as to when you can start boarding.  Passengers board the ship based on their Crown and Anchor status, which we thought would take forever because we had only sailed with Royal Caribbean one other time but to our surprise the Gold Members (lowest level) boarded fast.

This section of the blog will highlight the amenities specific to the Allure of the Seas and Oasis Class.

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

The Boardwalk:

The Boardwalk Dog House

The Boardwalk Dog House

For families there’s the Boardwalk which is set in the central open-air space between the two halves of the ship. The Boardwalk stretches almost a third of the ship’s length and it’s designed to resemble an old-time entertainment boardwalk. It has a traditional carousel featuring hand-carved wooden horses, a daily Family Festival with face-painting and family games, ice cream parlor and candy shop, a hot dog stand, Johnny Rockets burger joint, a shop much like Build a Bear where kids can create their own stuffed animals, carnival attractions such as mechanical fortune teller and fun-house mirrors. My son’s favorite thing about the Boardwalk was the popcorn popping fresh and my daughter’s was the doughnut shop with all you can eat donuts. There is also cotton candy and other carnival themed snacks. In the evening, the Boardwalk becomes a crowded hang out for teens. It is kind of fun because there is a safe place for them to roam around and a lot is going on. They play loud music and all the shops stay open late.

Ice Cream Parlor on the Boardwalk

Ice Cream Parlor on the Boardwalk

We felt safe letting the kids roam around on the Boardwalk while we attended shows elsewhere on

Only carousel out to sea

Only carousel out to sea

board or got a drink someplace. Since the kids had a soda package, they could fill up their drink cups on the Boardwalk at the Boardwalk Dog House. The face painting takes place at a certain time each day right out on the Boardwalk. There are so many things for kids to do there.

The Boardwalk is only offered on Allure of the Seas and includes the first carousel at sea. Of course we had to ride the carousel on the first day!! Why not? The carousel is free of charge as most things on the Boardwalk are with the exception of Rita’s Cantina Mexican Restaurant, the ice cream parlor and the candy store. The daily Compass will indicate when there is a fee for an activity, shop or restaurant. I believe there was a fee for a bag of popcorn but it was very minimal around $2.00. At the end of the Boardwalk is the Aqua Theater, so while you are waiting for the show to begin – the kids can roam around.

Central Park Sign

Central Park Sign

Central Park:  Just for adults!!! If you are traveling without kids or need a night out

Central Park at night

Central Park at night

alone, head on over to the Central Park neighborhood. It is located at mid-ship on deck 8 . The 21,000-square-foot space is an open-air tropical garden with an upscale, adult atmosphere complete with walking paths and a winery. The pathway is wide and tiled, running from one end of the park to the next. The park includes 12,000 trees, plants, vines, and flowers, not to mention a whole range of calm, sophisticated adult pleasures. There are several dining options: 150 Central Park, the most upscale restaurant on board, serving six- to eight-course menus with wine pairings;

The Park Cafe

The Park Cafe

Chops Grill,  a Chicago-style steakhouse that has tables both inside and out, on its alfresco patio; Giovanni’s Table, a family-style Italian restaurant that serves pizza, pasta, and other rustic dishes; and The Park Cafe, a casual spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner which serves panini sandwiches, soups, cookies, made-to-order salads, yogurts and other light fare.

On future cruises, we most likely won’t be cruising on the Oasis Class since those ships stay in the Caribbean. Central Park is probably one neighborhood that we will miss the most. We were fortunate that our room was also on deck 8, thus near Central Park. Some evenings we would just walk the park to get out of our room and see the stars. There are benches to sit at along the paths and live music on most evenings. As you walk along the path, you’ll see people sipping wine as many of the restaurants offer outdoor seating as well as indoor.

Aqua Theater at night

Aqua Theater at night

Aqua Theater: The Aqua Theater was quite impressive with 137,000 gallons of water.

Cheers at the Aqua Theater

Cheers at the Aqua Theater

Experience the dancers, divers and acrobats pull off stunts against a backdrop of back-lit fountains, big screens and the endless horizon of the sea. At night it is a really fun place to hang out. There is a Mexican Restaurant to dine at while having full view of the Aqua Theater. There is a bar located at the Aqua Theater as well. It is so fun to experience the fresh air and see the waves while sailing along.

Aqua Theater

Aqua Theater

The best part about the Aqua Theater is that it is outdoor and you sit up high with theater type seating. There are cocktail servers that walk up and down the theater serving drinks during the shows.

Oceanaria

Oceanaria

On the last night that we were on board the Allure, they showed a movie about the building of the ship and when it was brought to the Caribbean from Europe. It was amazing!! There are events and shows several times per day at the Aqua Theater. We saw a Belly Flop Contest, Sexiest Man Alive Contest, Oceanaria diving show and watched movies. The Aqua Theater also plays sports games on the big screen in the evening so the guys can head up there to watch the game in the open-air theater.

Zip Lining

Zip Lining

Zip Lining: One activity which is only offered on the Oasis Class ships is zip lining.

Zip Line

Zip Line

Race across the Oasis class Boardwalk suspended nine decks  high. We were pleased to discover that there isn’t a charge for zip lining on the ship which is great considering some of the excursions in the Caribbean charge $150 per person. It’s as simple as signing a waiver, standing in line and going as much as you want. All riders must wear tennis shoes and Royal Caribbean provides the helmet. As you take off, the ocean is right behind. When our kids zip lined we were in the Saint Maarten Port with a gorgeous view. The rooms with balconies facing the Boardwalk can watch as passengers zip above. I stood at one end and video taped them fly across the ship. It was pretty cool. Be sure to refer to the daily Compass for zip line hours. Most of the activities on the sports deck are open all day on the days out to sea, but not always open while in port.

Main Dining Room

Main Dining Room

Dining: The main dining room is pretty fancy, with multiple levels of fine dining. Every

Main Dining Room

Main Dining Room

night you will be served hot, fresh bread, beverage of your choice, and three courses. Some people prefer not to partake in the fine dining and just eat elsewhere on the ship. I would not recommend the main dining room for small children. It is a rather long dining experience and not exactly kid friendly. Our kids like fine dining and enjoyed the experience but some nights they went out to eat on there own or opted for room service. When choosing the main dining room there are two options: Specific Seating Time or My Time Dining. We have cruised both ways and we liked them both! Each option is great for various reasons. My Time Dining allows you

Main Dining Room

Main Dining Room

to eat in the main dining room when you want. Although it is highly recommended that

Dinner time!!

Dinner time!!

a reservation is made. For example if you want to eat at 5:30 p.m. than reserve that time on line before you cruise and if you show up a little later or earlier it is fine. It’s just best to have a reservation to ensure you don’t have to wait. The wait is not more than 20 minutes – per the website but we never waited once! Some evenings we were hungry earlier or decided to attend a show last minute and ended up eating later. We got right in every time. My Time Dining allows you to have more flexibility on board and not feel so scheduled out. Even though your itinerary may be all planned out, you may not feel like eating at the time originally scheduled and you don’t have to with My Time Dining. We ate at 5:30 p.m. one night and at 8 p.m. the next.

Breakfast on Liberty of the Seas

Breakfast on Liberty of the Seas

The other option is to choose a Seating Time for dinner. Usually the first seating is 6 p.m. and the second seating is 8 p.m. The larger ships (6500 passengers) hold multiple seating times starting as early as 5:30 and going as late as 9 p.m. If you choose a specific seating time, than you must eat at that time every night. We chose this option on the Liberty of the Seas and loved it because we were paired with a really nice family. Each evening we couldn’t wait to hear all about their day and which excursions they chose. I am sure this may not be the case if you were paired with someone that you did not end up enjoying. When choosing the seating time, it will ask if you prefer to sit alone or if you wish to be paired with other people.

Dessert

Dessert

There is also My Family Time Dining (which we have not experienced) offered for the first seating time in the main dining room, for children ages three to 11. Kids enjoy their meal within 40 minutes of seating, before heading to the evening’s Adventure Ocean activities. The program starts the second evening you’re on board. After that, you can use it each evening or whenever you wish. The best part is- all of this is free!!! There are other options for complimentary dining such as Windjammer Café, room service, Café Promenade, Jade Sushi, Sorrento’s Pizza, Park Café, Solarium Bistro, Boardwalk Dog House, Boardwalk Donuts, Café Latte-tudes, and Vitality Café.

Chop's Grille

Chop’s Grille

There is food everywhere!!! There are also Extra Special Dining Options,

which are fine dining restaurants  charging a cover per person (usually $25-30) for a 5 course meal. Some of those are Chops Grille, Chops Grille California Vineyards,

Johnny Rocket's

Johnny Rocket’s

Portofino, Giovanni’s Table, Izumi, 150 Central Park, Samba Grill Brazilian Steakhouse, Rita’s Cantina, Seafood Shack, Mystery Dinner Theater, and Vini D’ Italia.

There are other inexpensive options such as Johnny Rockets ($5 cover per person), Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Starbucks and more.

Don’t miss the Chef’s Table!!! Everyone told us to do this and we didn’t get a chance, but I have yet to hear one person say they were disappointed. Chef’s Table is a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience where 14 guests get to savor a five-course, gourmet menu specially prepared and presented by the Chef de Cuisine.

Boardwalk Donuts

Boardwalk Donuts

Every course pairs with a wine chosen to enhance your enjoyment of the dish. We will do this on the next cruise!!!

There is also self serve frozen yogurt available poolside. This was one of the highlights for our kids while cruising. The flavors change throughout the day. The Boardwalk offers donuts, hot dogs and popcorn complimentary.

Pools, Pools, and more pools: Where to begin???

Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas

Each ship is slightly different in the way of pools. Overall they are pretty similar. We LOVED the pools on the Liberty because they had huge, movie theater sized screens outdoors while you swam. Our favorite thing to do as a family – eat dinner than jump

Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas

into the pools at night and watch the Europe World Cup while sailing the Mediterranean. The Allure did not have the screens at the pool. Funny how we sailed on the largest passenger cruise ship in the world with so much to offer, but we were disappointed by that.

Pool Vollyball

Pool Volleyball

Due to the layout of the Allure, where the top 6 decks in middle of the ship are open to the sky, the pools were set up differently from the Liberty. The Allure has 4 pools including the Solarium, an adults-only retreat, 10 whirlpools, two of them cantilevered whirlpools overlooking the ocean. The pools are so relaxing and never too crowded. During the out to sea days, it is best to reserve a chair with a towel early but aside from that – there is room for everyone. The kids enjoy the ability to roam freely around the pool deck. All of the pools are conveniently located on the same deck which is also the sports deck. Next to the sports area is a restaurant called the Wipe Out Café which serves pizza, tacos, nachos, hamburgers, etc. It is a great place for the kids to pop in right after playing sports for a quick bite.

The pool deck has lots going on at all times from live bands, games, water volleyball tournaments, contests and more. On the Liberty of the Seas, there was a buffet set up poolside while out to sea. That was fun! Grab your food and head back to your lounge chair.

Top of Aqua Theater

Top of Aqua Theater

$$ Saving tips: First and foremost – Stay on the same cruise line!!! While there are so many options to choose from when booking a cruise, it is best to stay on the same cruise line. Much like the airlines with miles, cruise lines will give points which can be used for upgrades when booking. On Royal Caribbean, the points indicate the passenger’s status level and booking specials via email, early booking on new ships, upgrades, dinner with the Captain when on board and much more is offered.

Eat at the restaurants which are complimentary!!!! Eat all day long for free. Instead of purchasing coffee at Starbucks for a fee, go to the Promenade and get free coffee!! Take advantage of the room service – it’s free! We had a pot of coffee and cream delivered to our room every morning at 6 a.m. and drank it on the balcony as we cruised into a new port.

We managed to check out with a bill of $17 for the entire week for four people because we prepaid everything and didn’t spend money on the ship. The kids wanted Ben and Jerry’s ice cream but we told them that there was all-you-can-eat frozen yogurt on the pool deck. We gave a kids a limit of $5 each and told them they could charge that to the room. My son purchased candy at the candy store and had to figure out the scale and all! My daughter purchased a cupcake at the Cupcake Cupboard. The specialty restaurants will allow passengers to prepay and they are a great deal! But it is still more cost effective to eat at the complimentary fine dining outlets.

See all the shows!! Many of the shows are top notch and would normally cost $150 per person on up to see them in Vegas. We saw the Tony Award-winning Broadway Musical Chicago on the Allure of the Seas which is one of the very few full-on Broadway styles shows at sea today. The fountain show at the Aqua Theater on the Allure of the Seas reminded me of Fantasmic at Disneyland. It was a water show with lights and music to Celine Dion.

Wine in Main Dining room

Wine in Main Dining room

If you are anticipating drinking alcohol or your kids will want soda- prepay the package and save about 40%! On board everything is so much more expensive. We were quite impressed with the various drink options that the Allure offers- much more than the Liberty of the Seas. On board there is a special drink of the day. There are always drink specials around the ship. In fact, they are printed on the daily Compass. We ordered a drink special at the Aqua Theater which was $6.50 per person and it came with a souvenir cup and straw.

If you want to take bottled water on an excursion it is cheaper to grab the bottled water that is left in your cabin. We learned this the hard way. Water in the room is 50% less than at the gangway upon exiting the ship. Water is very important when departing the cruise incase the excursion involves a long bus ride or if passenger’s end up waiting in the hot sun at the ports ( this happened to us in Nassau). Purchasing it from your room is the best bet.

5wheelsto5star is featured monthly in Destinations Travel Magazine

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