Mum-of-two Tara Cain took her first cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas earlier this year. Now, she says, she’s completely hooked
On day two of our five-day Western Caribbean cruise, I stood on the ocean view balcony watching the sea go by, and realized I had been hypnotized by cruising. I was on board the most amazing ship I had ever seen, and the night before I had experienced the most wonderful night’s sleep.
Why had I never wanted to do this before? And as we approached our first port of call, Labadee on the island of Haiti, with her lush, green hills spreading out before me and the glittering Caribbean Sea pulling me closer, I knew I was well and truly hooked. My preconceptions about cruising – that it would be too crowded, that I’d be bored being in such a confined space – were completely challenged.
From the moment I took my first steps on to the huge 15-deck ship I was totally blown away by its size and grandeur. Throughout the whole cruise, the ship remained spotless. And every member of staff we met – from the waiters and stateroom attendants to the Captain himself, were friendly and helpful and had a smile on their face.
My stateroom was spacious and comfortable, and to my delight I discovered that room service was included. Every morning I could eat my granola and fruit on my balcony, watching the sea go by as I sipped my cup of tea in total peace. It really was idyllic.
And it never felt as though there were thousands of people onboard. Some were sipping cocktails, some were on loungers, some were using the amazing sports deck with its huge climbing wall and fabulous surf simulator, the FlowRider.
I knew the facilities would be extensive, but the onboard gym was actually superior to the one I’m a member of back home and the spa was a real treat.
My overriding impression was of quality. Everything is so well looked after and looks brand new. I’ve stayed in five-star hotels that aren’t as pristine.
One of my biggest concerns was that there wouldn’t be enough variety, but I was pleasantly surprised. On Liberty of the Seas the Windjammer self-service buffet restaurant is perfect for families, with a large variety of good basic food on offer. It gets rather busy at times, but the selection is impressive.
And there are a host of other venues to choose from – everything from Chop’s Grille to American-style diner Johnny Rockets. The Windjammer and the main dining hall – which looks like something from the set of a movie it’s so grand – are both included in the price of your cruise, but you need to pay a supplement to eat at the specialty restaurants (starting at $3.95 per person).
I thought the entertainment would be mediocre at best – but in fact, it was so good I’d happily pay to go and see it, from the ice-skating extravaganza to Saturday Night Fever. For a first-time cruiser, the quality and quantity of entertainment was a real eye opener. I had no idea it would be this good.
The Kids’ Clubs
The kids’ clubs were perfectly pitched to each age group, with lots of daily activities for them to choose from. I was really impressed. The Adventure Ocean programme has won awards – and it’s very clear why. Kids can spend their time making kites, doing science experiments, sports, face painting, competitions or just chilling out together.
Older children have an impressive array of things to keep them busy – from PlayStations and Wiis to arts and crafts and a disco. And difficult-to-please teenagers are catered for with their own ‘clubhouse’, and even a three-day DJ course if they want to learn a skill.
The Shore Excursions
After docking in beautiful Labadee, we boarded a small boat heading for a private island.
There we sipped rum cocktails in hollowed-out coconuts, the waves lapping at our feet and beautiful scenery all around us.
Meanwhile a procession of little buggies emerged from the ship, bringing a huge barbecue for everyone to enjoy. Jerk chicken, bbq pork, salads, burgers, fruit, cakes, puddings – it really was an excellent feast.
There were also lots of beach activities on offer, including the zip wire, snorkelling, jet skis and an entire aqua park. Plus the kids’ clubs.
In Jamaica we experienced an amazing day-long excursion: horse riding in the sea followed by a trek up Dunns River Falls. It was an unforgettable experience.
The most important thing I’ve learned from my first cruise is that it is vital you do your research before you book and ensure you pick the class of ship which is right for you and your family.
From the sports activities to the award-winning kids’ clubs, the Dreamworks parade, to the family-friendly shows – there was something to keep all ages busy and happy. And what I really liked was that these programmes have been designed to encourage parents and kids to do things together and make the most of their time as a family on board the ship.
I never thought I’d say this, but a cruise is a great family holiday.
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