2015 is getting off to a busy start!
I’m joining Heart Breakfast – a big adjustment for all of us given that my usual involvement with Heart involves us listening, daily, on the school run! All very exciting – but a big change for my little family. So when Royal Caribbean asked if we’d test out a family cruise we were beyond grateful for the chance of some quality family time before our new life begins – an adventure before our new adventure!
Here’s our diary…it’s a long one so grab a coffee and be in it for the long haul! (see what I did there!)
Day 1 – Overnight Miami, Florida – Boarding – Fort Lauderdale
A seamless 9 hour flight from Terminal 5 and British Airways landed us safely into Miami where we were whisked to the stunning Turnberry Hotel for a wonderful overnight. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I do tend to judge a forthcoming break by it’s stopover accommodation. What’s not to love about a 5 star overnight then a morning enjoying the pool, waterslide and lazy river, before departing for the port and our first glimpse of the magnificent Allure of the Seas! Wow – it’s a big ship!
Check-in was busy but well managed and the kids were ecstatic as we walked into the impressive and cavernous Royal Promenade complete with a vintage car, chandeliers, cafe’s, shops and err… bar that moves up and down between floors! Glass lifts (more excitement) whizzed us to our 7th Floor Balcony Stateroom and while the kids gasped at our ocean view I worked out where all our stuff would go. The room was well designed and the kids bed was a sofa by day, bed by night.
Then, off to explore the 16 passenger decks complete with ice rink, cinema, theatres, 5 swimming pools, kids clubs, zip wires, FloRider surfing, basketball court, cafes and restaurants where we could enjoy our complimentary meals and Central Park – a park, on a boat! The kids fell into bed, buzzing with excitement and I fell onto a massage table in the Spa, while Heidi and her hot stones worked their magic for 50 minutes plus a “First Day 15 minute Bonus”! I know!
Day 2 – Nassau, Bahamas
Up early and more squeals (mine!) as we found ourselves in the Bahamas and started the day with an amazing buffet breakfast in Adagio, the main restaurant. I already fear the cruise calories! Then to shore and a day excursion to the stunning Blue Lagoon – exactly as you imagine a beach in paradise to be – all white sands and aqua blue waters. The kids were open mouthed as they watched our fresh coconut prepared with a huge machete and I loved watching them play on the beach and instantly chill.
We had a magical day before heading back to Allure to continue our travels and chill in my favourite area so far – Central Park – the first ever living park at sea – which feeds my soul! With this and other open spaces, the boat is seriously well designed with none of the “shut in” feeling you might imagine at sea. I could tell the kids loved it too with Akira saying “If I ever met the person who made this, do you know what I’d say? Thanks“! Sweet boy.
Day 3 – Sea Day
Lovely waking up to the sound of waves this morning! Buffet breakfast in the Windjammer Restaurant on Deck 17 with it’s amazing panoramic views and it was time for a bit more exploring. We went to check out the kids club Adventure Ocean, complete with Science Labs and everything you could want for your kids with 3 clubs for ages 3-11. You can check your kids in for free, enabling them to make new friends and enjoy themselves while you enjoy some quality adult time. There’s even a Teen Compass Club which looked pretty cool and I was quite temped to waltz in myself!
Early afternoon we headed to the ice rink of Stage B and watched How to Train Your Dragon – on ICE! It was brilliant. The rest of the day was spent chilling by the kids Splash Zone with it’s fountains and whirlpool – even kid-sized sun loungers! I had a great time reading my book while the kids
tired themselves out for the night had loads of fun! Tonight was a “Dress Up” evening – one of two on the cruise. I’ve been loving the casual approach to dining and even the dress-up nights aren’t enforced. But I marvelled at some amazing cocktail dresses and secretly enjoyed putting a dress on!
Today we woke up in St Thomas in The Caribbean and the kids LOVED bumping into some huge lizards on the jetty! We did an excursion to one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world at Magden’s Bay. Not surprisingly we weren’t the only people to think this place might be worth a visit (!) but had a wonderful day chilling by the water and enjoying a cheeky pina colada on the sand. The kids were in heaven!
The shore excursions are brilliantly organised. You don’t have to do excursions on your shore days but they are a great way to explore and comparing notes with people who made their own way to Magden’s Bay we realised the excursions are good value for money. The kids loved taking in a bit of the St. Thomas’ culture as we drove around and there was time for a bit of souvenir shopping before getting back onboard, enjoying a lovely dinner in Adagio and collapsing into bed early. The sea air does that to a family !
Day 5 – St. Maarten, Caribbean
Keen to make the most of our last shore day, we had an early breakfast and disembarked into Philipsburg, St Maarten. You can walk everywhere from the jetty but we decided to save the kids legs and jumped onto a water taxi to the beach – literally a stones throw from Allure. We enjoyed a wonderful day lying on the beach, enjoying the surroundings, then wandering around the quaint streets, enjoying a bit of shade from the intense sun.
Returning to the boat at night was pretty magical and back onboard we headed to Rita’s Cantina for an amazing mexican meal, including the best snapper I’ve ever tasted, anywhere in the world! The food onboard is seriously amazing quality and, aside from some speciality restaurants, included. Even the speciality dining is subsidised, so it’s brilliant value. The evenings on the Allure’s Boardwalk area are pretty magical and the kids loved the unlimited carousel rides and we ended the night with a stunning fountain, light and music show in the Aqua Theatre.
Waking up on a Sea Day is pretty cool as a parent as you’re instantly more chilled than on shore days! We had a brilliant morning watching the FloRider and Trey mastered it with ease. The kids loved watching all the beginners and their wipe-outs, describing it as “a real life You’ve been Framed”! There were so many activities to do onboard for an active family – we loved Flo-Rider, Crazy Golf, Basketball and ice-skating as a family. Kaya and I also loved the Zip Line – 9 decks up and not for the faint hearted, Kaya was JUST big enough to ride it, so celebrated by doing it 20 times!
This afternoon Trey took the kids to watch Penguins of Madagascar 3D while I got a couple of hours to myself on our balcony and realised the true joy of an ocean view balcony – no tan lines!! Shh! Don’t tell! Tonight was another “Dress Up” night and we had a lovely Tuscan dinner at Giovanni’s Restaurant, our outdoor table bringing back happy memories of our wedding in Tuscany, then headed to Dazzles bar to enjoy a bit of entertainment.
Another leisurely day at sea to enjoy everything Allure has to offer – today it was all about being entertained. My action girl Kaya did the Zip Line 15 more times (I guess that apple didn’t fall far from the tree!) before we headed to Adventure Ocean to watch the puppet show Imaginocean, which the kids loved! We then watched a Madagascar Show “Let You Entertain Me” then the wonderful Blue Planet show in the main theatre, containing one of the most stunning “underwater” scenes I’ve ever seen on a stage.
The onboard entertainment and shows are all included in the price of the cruise and the quality is brilliant. If you worked out how much it would cost to take a family to the theatre to see Chicago, Ice Shows, Water Shows, go ice skating, listen to comedy and music performances – the fact that it’s all included makes for great value and it was liberating as parents to be able to allow the kids to do and experience so much, without worrying about what it was costing us. The kids loved bumping into Shrek and other Dreamworks characters throughout the trip and by the end thought they were truly their buddies!
Day 8 – Fort Lauderdale, Florida & Home
All too soon there was the sadness of disembarking first thing in the morning and a fond farewell to all the phenomenal staff who’d made our stay so special. Then again, with a Captain who rides Harley’s around onboard (no kidding!) the goodwill clearly filters down for the top. Not flying till the evening we eeked out the holiday vibe with a Shore Excursion to The Everglades and before we knew it, we were whizzing around on an airboat, fans whirring behind us, alligators and the best rainbow EVER ending our trip in style.
Huge thanks to Royal Caribbean for helping us kick off 2015 with the most amazing family experience! So who would benefit most from cruising? EVERYONE! It’s truly a great holiday option because it’s perfect for all ages, as illustrated by the huge number of extended families onboard.
Allure is heading to Europe in April and a family of 4 can enjoy a 7 nights including flights from £1,999 per adult and £1,499 per child during peak.