Royal Caribbean Cruise Review
This summer I was able to take my family of four on a seven day cruise. This was our first cruise. We chose Royal Caribbean on the recommendation of family members who are big cruisers. We have two children, one eleven and one nine. Not having any experience cruising, I really did not have any pre-conceived notions so I was not too picky about the cruise. We were on the Freedom of the Seas ship which is the second largest class of ship Royal has. Being a very independent person, I had a bit of a hard time the first day since you basically gave up your freedom and are "stuck" on the ship. This quickly passed as there are almost endless things to discover and do. It was also incredibly easy to relax which I do not get nearly enough of at home. I experienced no sea sickness as there is just the slightest bit of movement and sometimes vibration that you can feel on this massive ship. We did however have near perfect weather which always helps.
I loved the pool areas as did my kids. They loved having "kid" hot tubs, a small lazy river, buckets dumping water, and the other normal pool stuff. Soft serve complementary ice cream around the pool area is almost always present which they quickly discovered. This ship has plenty of deck chairs around the pool so it is easy to stake your claim even during the busy times. They also have a older kid pool area toward the middle of the ship which shows movies on the giant screen poolside. There are also plenty of staff run activities such as belly flop contests and line dancing which are just as fun to watch as to participate in. There is even an adult pool area on up toward the front of the ship. When I say adult, I just mean that kids are discouraged from visiting, not that clothing is optional. It's just more relaxed with a bar and more hot tubs which hang over the side of the ship. I really wish that I had discovered the rock wall and the Flowrider earlier into my trip. These two things are incredibly fun especially for the kids.
The food in the formal dining area was a huge treat. I was very pleased to find out that formal attire is only suggested but not required. Many people do not wear coats and ties to dinner which is just fine by me while on vacation. Of course many people do dress up and nobody frowns on those who do not which was great. How great is to have a world class wait staff who by the second meal already know your preferences and are quick to please. On lobster night our waiter greeted my brother in law and I a second helping of lobster without us asking as he knew we would probably be too shy to ask for more.
Obviously I had a great time but here are my few complaints. If you like to drink soft drinks you may be out of luck. There are just a few selected types available on the ship. You may be without your favorite until you get to the next stop. Also, with 2 kids, I would have paid a little extra for a larger room or even a room with a view. I talked to some folks who said save your money, your not in your room that much anyway, but it was very tight having the smallest interior rooms. That's really my only gripe, but I guess you can not have everything.
If you choose to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise, it's a good idea to join the Crown and Anchor society which is completely free. This allows you to get more and more free amenities the more you cruise. My father in law is at the next to the highest level and we were able to go through a special, shorter "VIP" line at boarding and get on before the crowd. This is like frequent flyer rewards but much more effective especially as you get quiet a few cruise nights under your belt. Well worth signing up for.