We wanted to take our family of four on a vacation and picked a family cruise to the Bahamas. At first it sounds a little scary hearing that you are going to be confined to a Royal Caribbean ship for 5 days and 4 nights with kids ages 4 and 2. What are we to do? How will we keep them occupied? How are we going to do the excursions off of the ship? Turns out there was no reason to worry.
We decided to take a Royal Caribbean family cruise to the Bahamas. It sounds daunting and maybe overwhelming, but if you are prepared this will be an awesome vacation paved with memories. Once we boarded the ship my 4-year-old was in awe. He couldn’t believe that he was really on the ship and that we were about to start our vacation we have been talking about for weeks. Our 2-year-old was too busy trying to escape his stroller to show his appreciation of the moment.
TravelingMom Cruise Tip: When you first embark on the ship, your room will not be ready. The only spot that will be open will be the cafeteria and the pool. Make sure you pack a carry on that can last you a few hours. If your kids are swimmers, make sure you pack their swimsuits. For us time flew by, we ate and decided to do some exploring of the ship.
NEVER USED SITTERS
We are parents who do not have a traditional day care provider. The only people who have watched our children have been family. My husband and I heard about Royal Caribbean’s children’s programs, but I hope you can understand my hesitation. I really have to put my foot in my mouth. They were fantastic.
My 4-year-old had a blast; we dropped him off for a couple of hours at night so my husband and I could have some adult time. We also dropped our 2-year-old off at the nursery for the same amount of time. The staff was so reassuring and we knew they were in good hands. After the first pick up seeing my son’s eye light up with joy and talking a mile a minute I was so happy for him. We had planned excursions when we were in port, but I knew this probably would trump anything we have planned.
BEACH DAY AT COCO CAY
Our first port was Coco Cay, it is a private island owned by Royal Caribbean. This was a designated beach day. You can rent jet skis, snorkel, paddle board, kayak, parasail etc. Since we were traveling with small kids we decided not to purchase an excursion and just spend a few hours on the beach and let the kids play with beach toys we brought. Another wonderful thing about this port, it is affiliated with Royal Caribbean so the food was all inclusive. We ate a nice lunch and headed back to the ship. The children washed up and we had a little down time before we sat down for dinner.
STAFF MAKES YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE
Royal Caribbean’s staff is really great; our Steward made sure our kids had fun in our room. He made the best towel animals for the boys and he sometimes used their stuffed animals or sunglasses. One night we came into our room and he made a Batman out of the towels.
We had a room with a balcony. I cannot feel closed in and having a balcony offers me that escape. Also, it was great for the kids. When we wanted to not be too active we could sit on the balcony and stare at the ocean, blow bubbles and at night we would stare at the stars. If you can get a balcony, do it. If not, make sure you get out on the top deck and lay on the lawn chairs and enjoy the night sky. That is the one thing I always look forward to: the night sky on the water.
DINNER STAFF ON THE SHIP
Our server for dinner was top notch. She always made sure to speak to my kids like they were people. She asked them what they wanted for dinner, even though we adults would be ordering it. She was fantastic. The food was great and you are able to order more than one appetizer, entrée and dessert. You are on vacation, DO IT! I like to try new things so I order one new thing and one sure thing. They don’t make you feel bad for doing it so no guilt.
CHECK THAT OFF MY BUCKET LIST
Our second port was Nassau; this was on my bucket list. I have wanted to see Nassau for as long as I can remember. The Atlantis was my goal. I have always wanted to see this hotel. Michael Jackson was the first person to ever stay in the Atlantis towers. It is one of the most prestigious hotels in the world. It looks majestic on print.
I had to see this in person. What better way to see this magical place than through a cruise? When we arrived that morning, it was like the air changed. I rushed to my window like a kid on Christmas. I was so happy to see the Atlantis in as our skyline. I was very excited and that was met by blank stares by my family, but that did not bother me at all.
BY LAND AND BY SEA
I booked a land and sea tour for us. It started with the sea. We took a sea tour with hands down one of the best tour guides I have ever had and I have been through many bus and boat tours both international and US.
The tour showed us a lot of famous people’s homes from Nicolas Cage, Oprah, Tom Cruise, the owner of Starbucks and more. I loved it because we were on the bluest of waters. Even though it was a “talking tour,” my kids were entertained.
OH MY LANTIS
Next up was the land portion of the tour. We climbed aboard a bus and learned about the hospitals and how healthcare works in the Bahamas (it’s pretty much free). The tour guide explained how the older houses have no value because they are passed down from family member to family member. It was very educational. The bus did stop for 45 minutes and allow us to explore The Atlantis. You can pay to do the water park if you’d like. I just wanted to walk around. We were able to walk the lobby and explore and take it all in before we went back on our tour bus.
TravelingMom Cruise Tip: If you do not want to go back on the bus you can stay as long as you like and pay $4 to get back to your ship. Make sure you pack water and some snacks. You will not be eating on this excursion.
Date Night in Nassau
After we finished our tour we went back on the ship. Since this port was an all-day port 8 am until midnight, we dropped off the kids and headed back out for a date night in Nassau. We walked the infamous Straw Market and grabbed some wonderful souvenirs for ourselves and the kids.
TravelingMom Cruise Tip: If you want the best prices and souvenirs make sure you stop at the Straw Market past all the other shops. You will thank me for it. We did stop and have a local beer, Kalik. It was refreshing on a Bahama day. This was the last port before we headed back to Miami and ended our vacation.
Tanya Abbey loves long flights to new destinations, explores cities as easily as the countryside, and knows how to travel the world since Germany was home base for half her life. Find her wearing heels and MAC make up, often laughing until she cries. That can include cheering for her hometown Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs or following Billy Joel and Britney Spears. Taking her two boys, ages 2 and 4, on adventures often involves Disney. Tanya sees herself as a happy wife, undercover nerd, and accessory, product and shoe junkie loving to have fun and is all that and more at tanyaabbey.com .