And it sounds a little bit like paradise.
Cruises are only for OAPs right? Wrong! How very wrong I was. There are a whole load of other misconceptions too, like that the food isn’t up to scratch. I was happy to be proven wrong, mind you, when I set off for Florida to board Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas ship in Fort Lauderdale.
Taking a Caribbean cruise holiday has become much easier since Aer Lingus launched their direct Dublin to Miami route just last year. Clearing US immigration in Ireland and not having to connect makes the whole journey miles faster, letting you get straight to it without much faff.
I set sail on a Western Caribbean route, making stops in the Bahamas, St Kitts and St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, a dream itinerary. As a cruise virgin, the first couple of hours after boarding the ship were a bit overwhelming, sorting WiFi and booking into shows, dinner and shore excursions. But with a handy bit of hindsight, it could’ve been a lot easier with some forward planning. Especially if I’d downloaded the right Royal IQ app, Royal Caribbean’s nifty ‘personal vacation management app’ that allows you to do all of the above and more. It’s where you can add bits to your daily itinerary from the ‘Cruise Compass’, the up to date activity guide (a hard copy is also delivered to your room each evening), since there’s so much going on around the ship.
So what myths were busted I hear you ask? The demographic was much younger than expected, there’s a definite fun-loving atmosphere, with guests making use of their drinks packages having frozen daiquiris by the pool and watching the ‘World’s Sexiest Man’ competition. There’s a pretty even spread across all age groups, actually. The options for eating and drinking went far beyond my expectations too, with 21 restaurants on board and not only humans mixing cocktails, but robots too. Yep, create your own signature drink at Bionic bar and see it made and served by a robotic arm right in front of your eyes. There are 340 brands of wine to try and make a dent in and if carbs are your thing, I’m sure you’ll find something to feast on from the 40 types of bread and 100 kinds of pastries served daily.
Another common question asked is, ‘do you ever feel claustrophobic’? For me, not even on two back to back seas days, or over 48 hours on board. There’s just so much to do and so much space. From the adult only solarium area, zip line, waterslides, Broadway shows like Grease in the Royal Theatre, ice skating, stand up comedy, happy hour in the casino, silent disco, rock climbing wall, competitions at the Flowrider surf simulator and the Ultimate Abyss slide which is 150 meters above sea level, the list just goes on and on. The highlight though? The Fine Line at the Aqua Theatre, where performers use two 10 metre Olympic height diving boards to put on a seriously impressive show set to lights, music and what seems to be a magic pool-come-dancefloor.
I haven’t even mentioned the port calls, but they’re just as you can imagine. Long stretches of white sand, endless rum punch and chilled Caribbean vibes. Pearl Island in the Bahamas was a personal fave, where we ate rice and beans and fresh fish for lunch, kicked back with a local beer and used the SUPs and snorkelling gear in the clearest of waters. While not technically in the Caribbean, it most certainly felt like paradise.
Best for: From families to honeymooners, anyone will enjoy this kind of holiday. It would be a particularly fun trip for big groups too, since all the logistics have already been arranged and it’s really easy to keep track of costs with no need to split bills etc.
How much? The Western Caribbean route starts from €817 (per person based on 2 people sharing) full board. This price includes an interior state room (other rooms are available), a range of complimentary dining options, the Vitality Spa and Fitness facilities and entertainment. For more information visit royalcaribbean.ie.
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