Travel,  U.S. Travel

Family Cruise to the Caribbean

Hello!

I can hardly believe that it’s August already! I swear July went by in a blink! After a crazy travel day getting home from my girls trip to Door County, I had three days to do laundry and pack up the entire family to fly to Orlando and hop aboard The Wonder of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, for a week in the Caribbean with HBW Hubby’s family. It was a blast and I have a lot to share, so here goes!

Getting There

HBW Hubby’s parents and sister and her family all live in the Jacksonville area. We spent a week down there a couple of years ago, which you can read about here. This year, we used Jacksonville as a meeting point before driving to Orlando to catch our ship at Port Canaveral. We have had this trip planned for two years, while the ship was still under construction and we were all excited for the experience! Wonder of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, holds the title for the largest cruise ship in the world. It is insane! Don’t think I didn’t have Titanic thoughts…I’m glad there aren’t any icebergs in the Caribbean. That said, the ship is about to be surpassed by the newest addition to the Royal Caribbean fleet, Icon of the Seas, which is still under construction.

Wonder boasts 18 decks filled with lodging for almost 7000 passengers, unique restaurants, a water park, playground, ice-skating rink, surf simulator, zip line, indoor theater, outdoor aquatic theater, two rock walls, a lush park, and promenade. My kids never complained of being bored. Not once. They have childcare broken down by age groups, including a teen zone that looks super cool and which my kids were sad to be too young for. There fun activities planned like parades, shows, movies, and of course, duck hunts! Staff and passengers hide rubber ducks all over the ship in public places for you to find. It’s such an unexpected treat and my kids loved it! There are also 3 astronauts holding hearts to find on the ship. These hunts are a fun way to get to know the ship and explore that isn’t really advertised.

We chose the less expensive stateroom but we did opt for the balcony, which I was worried about being too crowded with four of us staying there, but if I had it to do again, I wouldn’t change a thing! It was roomier than I anticipated and we actually had drawers left unused! My in-laws had suites which were 1.5 times wider, I estimate, but you’ll want to consider how much time you’ll spend in your room before deciding what works for you and your family and whether you want to go to the extra expense. For us, who are used to packing into a tiny pop-up camper, we were more than comfortable and decided the extra money was better spent on excursions. Take a peek at our stateroom below.

Around the Ship

As I mentioned above, there is plenty to do on the ship. Honestly, there was a lot we didn’t even get to, like rock climbing, the spa, the surf simulator, miniature golf, the basketball and pickleball courts – though my oldest did partake of the track and all my boys (hubby too) had fun playing table tennis.

We did go for the laser tag, where my oldest somehow got the highest score. I didn’t even rank the board haha! My oldest enjoyed the zip line and since there was no line, we messaged my nephew and brother-in-law to join us.

They also have something called a silent disco, where they give each person a set of headphones tuned to different music and everyone dances to the music they hear. It was fun but kind of wild to take your headphones off and see a mass of dancing people in a silent (for the most part) room. You can get a peek in the trip video at the bottom of the post.

We also went to each of the shows that the cruise put on, including vocal and dance performances, the kids show, an aqua theater performance, and ice-skating show. They were all pretty cool, but I enjoyed the ice skating most, but that’s just me. HBW Hubby preferred the vocal performance and the special effects of the kids show were pretty spectacular. I show a little more of these in the trip video below.

We only opted for one of the specialty restaurants, the ones that aren’t included in your cruise ticket, but there are several such restaurants for those looking beyond the buffet and main dining room. We stuck primarily to the Windjammer (buffet) and the Solarium, though we did enjoy two nights in the main dining room for sit-down, 3-course dinners. The pic below shows all nine of us on one of the formal nights in the main dining room.

Wonderland

When asked their favorite thing about our vacation, my boys said it was dining at Wonderland, one of the specialty restaurants on board the ship. Not going to lie, it was a high point for me too! Innovative cuisine with a flourish, unique décor, and staff dressed in character, this restaurant certainly lived up to its name!

While it might seem childish, the cuisine is anything but. It is both fine dining and art. Be prepared to step outside of your comfort (food) zone. For parents with picky eaters, don’t worry, there’s a kids menu that your kids will surely enjoy. See some of the food we were served in the trip video, like the cotton candy first course for the kids!

Interested in learning more about this ship? Visit their website here.

Ports of Call and Excursions

We had 4 ports of call on our weeklong cruise: Cozumel and Costa Maya Mexico, Roatan Honduras, and also to Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, Coco Cay. I’m not going to lie, many of the excursions available at one location are available at others. For example, the two we opted for, a dolphin experience and the glass bottom boat/sub was available at all stops except Coco Cay. We did a dolphin experience in Cozumel and explored the second largest coral reef in a glass bottom boat in Roatan. I have no regrets, except maybe missing out on Mayan and Aztec ruins, which are all-day excursions and there was no way my kids would tolerate that. Sigh. Another time, perhaps. Still, both the excursions we went on were so much fun!

Coco Cay, Bahamas

Coco Cay was our first stop and a lot of fun, even opting out of the crazy expensive waterpark. There are multiple beaches, pools, bars, and play areas, and if you bring your own snorkel gear, you can swim out for a bit of underwater sightseeing too. They have sets you can rent, but ours were easy enough to pack. They do have life vests available to borrow (free), so that’s nice. I don’t really think of Coco Cay as an excursion so much, more like a day at the beach. And the water….so beautiful! Side note, while eating, don’t leave food unattended. The seagulls and chickens (yup, chickens!) are always looking for a quick meal.

Cozumel, Mexico

In Cozumel, we were able to get into the water with dolphins, one dolphin in particular, named Achilles. We were broken into small groups of 10 people or less, matched with a dolphin and trainer, and learned about dolphins, played and did tricks with Achilles, and even got a smooch or two!

Sadly, cameras were not allowed with the dolphins. Partly because they might take it from you to play with it and mostly because the area relies heavily on tourism, so they have a professional photographer there snapping pictures for you to purchase later. Not going to lie, those pictures are expensive. So we only bought two of the probably 30-45 pictures they took. But it was an experience we are sure to remember.

After we were done with the dolphins, they have snorkeling available and drinks and lunch was included as well. The boys were excited to try an alcohol-free strawberry daiquiri while mom and dad were content with the real deal. We were able to see more in their snorkeling area than we’d been able to at Coco Cay, like tropical fish, urchins, and this giant starfish! More from this excursion can be found in the video as well.

Roatan, Honduras

Our third port was Roatan, an island community in Honduras. Here we went on a glass bottom boat tour of the coral reef. The coral reef in Honduras is the second largest, with the largest being the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The boat we went on looked like little more than a raft above the water, but below deck is a glass-sided room with a view. They even had magnification to the glass so that everything appeared closer than it really was. The guides were very knowledgeable and it was a cool experience! After that, our tour guide took us around the island explaining the different neighborhoods, the culture, schools, etc. We also stopped at a small shop in the Macaw Market for a local chocolate factory, because chocolate, obviously.

Costa Maya, Mexico

We didn’t have any excursions planned in Costa Maya, but we did get off the boat for some shopping and photos. If the kids hadn’t been with us, we’d have probably gone to see the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins, an all day excursion. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. There was a beautiful mural painted that you can see in the video and this hilarious sign. There were also some men performing the Danza de los Voladores, which you can see a snippet of in the video.

Caribbean Cruise Video

I referenced a lot of things above that I didn’t show pictures of simply because that would be A LOT of pictures, but I put together a video from our trip to hit all the highlights and things I missed above. I hope you enjoy!

All in all, we had a lot of fun! It’s nice to get to have an extended visit with family that we don’t get to see often, and its even better when you get to be as pampered as we were on this cruise! The Wonder crew was wonderful (ha!) from the helpful housekeeping staff to the waiters/waitresses and all their towel and napkin folding skills, and the ship was truly an experience on its own! The ship was almost fully booked and while some days could be busier than others and some areas too, it didn’t feel too overwhelming to this space-loving girl. Would I have liked a few less people, yes, but once we found the rhythm of the ship and passengers, we were able to avoid crowds for the most part.

xx

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