Latest Adventure – Royal Caribbean Cruise, Western Caribbean Itinerary

Sooooooo excited to share that we just booked a seven day cruise on Royal Caribbeans Allure of the Seas, setting sail out of Miami at the end of April. It’s part celebrating Damon’s new job and part big blow-out vacation since I won’t be able to travel much after this.

Now, you’re probably thinking – they’re going on a cruise with two young kids, while pregnant!?! And you’re right – this is a daunting task, but we’ve taken some pretty big precautions to ensure that a good time is had by all:

  1. The Cruise Line
    1. Selecting a right cruise line is very important. Some cruises are geared more towards young couples, like Carnival, or older crowds, like Celebrity. The most popular family cruise ship is Disney. But they cost 3x’s more than other cruises, and, our kids aren’t into DIsney characters, just yet, so it wasn’t a good fit for us.
    1. We landed on Royal because they have a wide variety of activities for kids and have kids friendly pool play areas that those who are not diaper trained can use. That’s perfect for our water loving kids.
    1. The Ship
      1. I did a lot of research on which ship we would take. Not all cruise ships are outfitted with the kids play areas – these are relatively new in the past few years. So it actually made it easier to choose a cruise ship – since there weren’t a lot.
    1. Itinerary

      1. When cruising in the Caribbean, there are two standard choices – Eastern and Western. Eastern usually has prettier beaches and more days at sea, while the Western cruises have more days in port. We chose a Western cruise as it goes to many of our favorite places (specifically Cozumel).
    1. The Stateroom
      1. There are many rooms sizes to consider – the smallest are interior room, them ocean view, balcony, and finally staterooms. I usually suggest a balcony room for those with young kids as it gives lots of places to spread out their toys and not feel on top of each other. It’s also a great way to give yours kids some quiet downtime without missing out on the wonderful, ocean breeze. I have found its really important to provide the kids a quiet place to relax, away from all of the excitement of the cruise.
      1. We chose the Owner’s Suite – it has a lot of room and it includes the Sky Package. This package gives you a personal escort to your stateroom (no waiting in line to board the ship, then finding the room on your own), includes drink packages for everyone, and guaranteed seats for all of the shows onboard. This makes vacation with kids much easier.
      1. Additionally, most of the suites come with bathtubs! Which means you can actually clean your kids while on board (Most of the balcony and below rooms only have showers).
    1. Alone Time

      1. This is very important part of vacation and cruises have some wonderful options, such as in-room sitters and kids clubs, where they can play with other kids their age and supervised by qualified ship staff.
      2. These are wonderful options, but not great for us as our kids don’t do well with strangers, so we invited my parents to come along with us and they agreed to watch the boys so Damon and I can go off on our own for a bit.
  • So that’s what we have planned, so far. We leave in 52 days and it cannot come fast enough. I hope that we have enough ate-up for us to have a smooth vacation. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.

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    On the Road at Last

    We did it! The house is listed, the trailer is setup, the car is prepped – time to get this show on the road. Of course. For our first time picking up and leaving, it took a little effort to actually leave:

    1. You have to stow everything! And with a very curious toddler around, you can imagine how hard it was to get everything put away. Damon had to go back at one point after we got into the car to pick up some last minute things
    2. Once things are stowed you can’t get to anything until you reach your destination (unless you want to squeeze your way through). So I had to prepare several snack bags for everyone in the car.
    3. Triple check everything! For an RV to work it needs to be plugged and hooked up to lots of things. Damon got in the car and almost drove off before he saw that the power was still hooked up. Then he forgot that the propane was still on. Lesson learned – do several walk arounds before leaving.
    4. Driving in rain is hard. Of course we leave just as one of our lovely Florida thunderstorms shows up, making it a little harder to steer the car (it’s very bumpy back here)

    Not too bad for beginner, especially with two young children to care for as well. Hopefully we’ll get faster as we progress. For now, we are thrilled to be on the road, heading to Fort de Soto, Florida.

    Downsizing

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    How do you fit a 1600 sq ft house into a 300 sq ft trailer??? The simple to say, but hard to do, answer is – DOWNSIZE. I’ve tried to put myself in a practical mindset – the more we sell, the more money we have to travel and less stuff to lug around. It also helps to remember that if we get rid of something, and want it later, we can always re-buy it.

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    Now some of our stuff is a no brainer to get rid of, such as the furniture (since it’s included in the trailer), TV’s (we won’t need four in the trailer), my car (my Honda Fit can’t pull an 8,000 lb trailer), and kitchen stuff (I won’t need my fancy dishes any more).

    Then it gets a little more difficult for me. We have cultivated quite the toy collection and play area in our house. I know, realistically, that our kids don’t NEED all these toys, but I do have a joy seeing them play with these toys. I didn’t have a lot growing up, so being able to provide these “things” for my children gives my great satisfaction.

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    But then I’m reminded that what we remember most isn’t the actual toy we played with as children. We remember spending time with our loved ones and experiencing the world with them. And that’s what I want for my children – to experience value and love from those around them; not the things around them.

    So while I know that downsizing my kids toys will be emotional for me, I also know that we are giving them an awesome experience.

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    Now on the flip size, I am used to cooking in a 300 sq ft kitchen (which is the same size as our trailer). How am I supposed to cook in such a small space? Where am I supposed to store everything? I am used to having a lot of cabinet space, not to mention fridge space, to store food. I currently have three different solutions for my dilemma:

    1. Shop every few days, instead of once a week
    2. Stop buying in bulk and only buy what you need for a the meal (portion control)
    3. Grow fresh herbs and lettuce in a window

    I have no idea if any of these will works, but I guess this is only part of what I’ll have to get used to going forward. On the plus side, it’s much easier to keep 300 sq ft clean than 1600 – especially with two kids!

    Sailing with Princess Cruises- Embarkation

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    We arrived at the terminal in Long Beach (the EXACT same one that you see in The Love Boat). However, we were instantly disappointed. Thanks to modern day security constraints, that we couldn’t see the entrance that was used in the show was blocked off.

    Once we passed through security, we tried to explore in an area that was used on the show. The area was open (i.e.: no ‘Keep-Out signs, no ropes, no security, etc.) but apparently in this port that means ‘Keep Out’. We were instantly yelled at by a member working there. Not exactly an ideal way to start our trip.

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    Once we were on-board things got better. Since our room wasn’t ready just yet, we decided to have lunch. The staff who greeted us were extremely friendly and even personally escorted us to the dining room. Now this was more like the Love Boat – quiet atmosphere, good food, and pleasant service.

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    With our tummy’s now full, we headed to our room where we met our room steward – a very nice gentleman who helped us get settled in. I am an obsessive organizer who needs to put everything away instantly. I feel better knowing where everything is and, in my opinion, you can get out of the room faster when you know where everything is. We had an hour before our lifeboat drill so we decided to check out the ship. 

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    I was excited to see the kids area – the pictures I saw before the trip showed an area with a lot of things for kids to do. The area was so cute – lots of games, a climbing play area, books, and more. Mini-man is too young to be left there alone, but we could take him in with one of us. Unfortunately, we were unaware that this was Spring Break and the ship has over 300 kids in this kids club alone (over 1100 kids on the whole ship). The staff were so nice to advise us that it would be very busy and that mini-man wouldn’t have too much fun playing in this area. 

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    At this point it was time for the lifeboat drill. This is the first time I have cruised that I actually needed to bring my life jacket with me! Once we arrived at our muster station (which was the theater) it was way past mini-mans nap time. He did not want sit in the chair and wait for the drill to be over. Then we had to try the life jacket on him – that was not fun. Once the drill was over, we headed back to the room to try and get mini-man to nap. Unfortunately with such an exciting day, he was over-worked and over-tired. It took a while, but he finally fell asleep and so did I. 

    When I woke up, mini-man was still passed out but I was hungry. Damon volunteered to grab some food and bring it back to the room. While he was gone I discovered the all ‘Love Boat’ channel – score! 

    Once we ate, it was clear mini-man was down for the night. So we snuggled into bed and started our journey towards San Francisco. 

    Welcome Aboard! – Sailing with Princess Cruises

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    Love … exciting an new. Hope aboard – we’re expecting you. The Love Boat! Oh man! After years of LOVING the Love Boat – owning the episodes, watching the movies, reading the books – I was finally taking my own run aboard Princess Cruise Lines.

    Right now, mini-man is not a fan of being in his car seat, which means getting creative when we embark on adventures. We walk everywhere that is close, we have taken a train to San Diego, we’ve flown several places and we’ve even sailed. After doing some research,. cruising seemed to offer the best way for us to take mini-man to a lot of places without having to subject him to the dreaded car seat.

    Damon and I have been cruising for years. However, now that we have mini-man, we realized we couldn’t just lounge all day on the boat and have crazy adventures in each port. After some research and utilizing lessons learned from previous trips, were felt prepared to embark on the Love Boat.

    We chose this particular cruise  because it offered the chance to explore a lot of California, including: San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Ensenada. We had some highs, some lows, and made a lot of great memories.