Family cruise holidays with Royal Caribbean

independence of the seasBack in February 6 bloggers were chosen to become #RoyalMums, they were sent on a dream cruise by Royal Caribbean to report back to us what it was really like and give us a peek into the life onboard a stellar cruise ship.

Are we nearly there yet?
English Mum
Sticky Fingers
Little Mummy
Cafe Bebe
The Mum Blog

I wrote about my dream of family cruise holidays way back in the dusty archives of Mari’s World but I followed their journey savouring every moment they showed through their Instagram feeds and praying that one day I would get to see an ocean liner.

cruise terminal southapton

Then an email landed in my inbox asking if I too would like to become an honorary #RoyalMums and join a group of bloggers onboard the Independence of the Seas for one day?

13th July. The day I had invited our entire family round to celebrate the girls upcoming 5th birthday. They’re family, right? They’ll understand, won’t they?

#royalmums

Husband didn’t think twice at the prospect of moving the party so I emailed and told everyone our decision and then sat back to get VERY excited.

deck 12 independence of the seas

Even though we were visiting for the day only, and I discovered this is an option to anyone thinking of booking a cruise ‘Try before you buy’, we still had to pass through customs and hand over our passports in order to board.

looking down decks Independence of the seas

The group had different aged children so, the older kids headed off with their parents to the FlowRider and the climbing wall whilst we visited Adventure Ocean, the area designated for the children’s clubs. All children’s ages are catered for and talking to the captain, he mentioned that the most he had had onboard at one time was 1400!

Adventure Ocean – Independence of the Seas

aquanautsThe Adventure Ocean is divided into age groups.

  • Aquanauts  3-5 years (must be potty trained, no nappies or pull-ups)
  • Explorers  6-8 years
  • Voyagers  9-11 years
  • Navigators  12-14 years
  • Guests  15-17 years

All children’s activities are supervised by male and female youth staff, professionally certified in education, recreation and/or preschool, or having qualified experience in working with children ages 3-17. 

All youth staff are certified in CPR.

aquanauts getting ready to play

There are babysitting facilities and in-room sitting services too.

aquanauts play area

What we did in Adventure Ocean – the girls were looked after by Matt who gave each of them a VTech camera and dotted Duplo animals around the area for them to go and seek and photograph. An excellent idea which they all enjoyed. It was a shame to leave as there were all sorts of projects laid out for them to play with. We LOVED the pirate ship with treasure buried in the hull…

pirates treasure Independence of the seas

H2O – Independence of the seas

We had been told to bring costumes with us and we’d had a glimpse of the H2O park before heading off to Adventure Ocean. Amazingly, the boat pulls in to port in the early morning and sets sail the same day so, our day was one of turn around and there were signs of the impeccable cleaning all around us.

H2O area Independence of the seas

An fun area full of colour, fountains and water squirters too.

water squirters onboard independence of the seas

 

Some hoops to run through

H2O hoops independence of the seas

Mum’s view whilst the children are playing is of the celebration flags – I asked the captain ;)

celebration flags Independence of the seas

On the other side three large pools, one heated, one not and an enormous flat screen showing videos of live music. Pool bars, towels on hand and on the deck above a running course if you want to have a jog.

H2O other side flat screen music

Cupcake making

All of the groups met back for cupcake making. The table was prepared, each position had three cupcakes and all that was needed to create a cupcake burger which we swiftly named a ‘Scooby Snack’. We had tears as the girls had cut their cupcakes lopsided and the finished product wouldn’t stand up but they had a lot of fun and thank goodness I had wet wipes in my bag!

Scooby snack cupcakes

Entertainment onboard

rum cocktail - cheers!

Then we were led through to the ice rink, offered champagne or rum cocktails and we sat to watch the most spectacular show on ice, it was pretty amazing and we were told guests are offered ice skating lessons throughout their stay too. See my video of the ice skating onboard here.

Dining onboard

Lunch for us was in the main dining room, an open plan area on three floors with a sparkling chandelier hanging central to the room.

main dining room independence of the seas

 

Lunch was more than delicious, I chose…

smoked fish tapenade

Smoked fish tapenade which Becky (English Mum) and I agreed it was delicious and we’d like the recipe.

grilled NY Strip steak

Followed by Grilled New York Strip Steak, cooked to perfection and served with a mascarpone mashed potato, crimini mushrooms, asparagus and a rich peppercorn sauce, my favourite.

The girls could choose from a special kid’s menu and they went for pizza and chips – as you do when you’re almost 5.

kids menu

I spoke to Olympic champion Sally Gunnell who has been a #RoyalMum now for about three years and she told me her view of cruising had completely changed in the time she had been an ambassador of the program. She can’t wait for her next cruise when she’ll be spending Christmas onboard with her family. Wow!

Sally Gunnell and Marianne Weekes

Kevin Thorogood, the Hotel Director who is in charge of EVERYTHING that is onboard apart from the marines told me he has 1300 staff. He is an Essex boy and works four months onboard, two months off. Husband was so impressed he’s considering a career change :)

I enjoyed chatting with the captain Teo Strazicic. A friendly man who comes from the beautiful city of Dubrovnik. He told me he’d love Royal Caribbean to start adding Dubrovnik to the itinerary so he could sail into ‘town’ and salute all of his old friends. Now that would be a very classy return home wouldn’t it? Could he be persuaded to go up the Thames to Gravesend I wonder?

Captain Teo Strazicic and me

We had half an hour left to ourselves so Karin from Cafe Bebe walked us down to the promenade where the ship’s high street is bursting with shops, restaurants and a pub too!

royal promenade - independence of the seas

 

 

Time was running out, at 3pm we were all rounded up and led off the boat. I can assure you nobody wanted to leave, everyone had had a fabulous time and as I watched the new guests settle in on board and order their drink packages paying their tips upfront, my heart yearned to be one of them.

looking up 5 or 6 decks independence of the seas

You know if you send a wish out to the universe it might come true? Well, my wish is to take my family on a cruise one day. Fingers crossed, let’s hope the universe is listening.

Disclosure: Royal Caribbean invited us to spend a day onboard the Independence of the Seas nothing was asked in return but I wanted to share my experience with you all thoughts are my own and if you’re not tired of photos please check out the Mari’s World Blog Facebook page where there are plenty more.

Croatia by boat, down to Rovinj

Call me crazy, call me bonkers but I must have sailor blood in me as this baby here represents to me my dream holiday.

An Ocean Liner more commonly known as a cruise ship – a holiday at sea with every entertainment and pastime you could possibly imagine.

There hovering around the top of my ‘ To Do Before I Die’ list is a cruise.

Not a posh cruise where one has to dress up for dinner and fellow guests are studying what you’re wearing in order to place you in their scale of 1 – 10 to decide whether you fit or not. No no.

I have got to see this to believe it!

Give me a family friendly, massive ocean liner where every day the four of us can get lost in the swimming pools, cinemas, shopping malls, tennis courts, crazy golf and in the evening be entertained by the onboard crew.

My cruise passion was born as I watched my uncle board an ocean liner in Southampton back in the 70’s. He was going to Australia and that for me, not quite 10, conjured up such excitement. As the family said their goodbyes all I could do was ask questions and interrupt.

‘Where is Australia?’ I asked my parents as I watched my grandmother wipe tears from her eyes, as granddad held his son by the shoulders and then shook his hand pulling him towards him and hugging him in a singular masculine movement.

‘On the other side of the world.’

On. The. Other. Side. Of. The. World? Unimaginable. How cool was that? Wait till I tell them at school tomorrow, that my uncle was going to the other side of the world, they would be so impressed.

My uncle was a’Gap year student’ before the name was coined and he returned with hundreds of photos and gifts. I got a koala bear… a toy one of course.

Alfredo’s gulet

The closest I have got to my dream cruise so far is a boating holiday. We boarded our gulet at Monfalcone, a harbour placed at the top of the Adriatic Sea not far from Trieste and our captain, Alfredo, set sail as the sun started to descend in the warm afternoon. We head across to Umag on the Croatian coast in time for dinner.

My first ‘cruise’ took us down the coast as far as the beautiful city of Rovinj stopping off at breathtaking beauty spots along the way.

Rovinj, Croatia

This was the life for me. No shoes on board, shorts, t-shirts, diving off the side when anchoring in the secluded secret bays along the coast, catching your dinner fresh from the sea and smelling in sea air from morn till night. Bliss.

I would jump at the opportunity to repeat that holiday aboard the Turkish Gulet that hadn’t received its new sails in time for departure and I would also dive at any opportunity to spend time on a cruise ship, imagine being invited to review one! I’m getting excited at the thought alone.

I’m in blue to the left, My daughter in the centre my son taking a photo

So back to that dream of mine, well many companies have 25 night trips skirting around the Caribbean Islands on an Ocean Liner which offer Kidzone to keep the children amused, sports and swimming pool for the other half and a Spa centre plus gym for me! I assure you I would love every single second of this kind of holiday and I am keeping my fingers crossed as one day I will go and I shall tell you all about it.

Now where did I put that nautical t shirt of mine?

The photos have been scanned as they were taken back in 2002!