We just got back from our Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas cruise to the Eastern Caribbean - we traveled with two other couples and there was a total of 4 teenagers aboard with us - they shared rooms (1 for 2 girls and 1 for 2 boys, ages 15-18). Ten altogether!
Well, we had a blast. The ship was cool, lots to see and do. We joined in some activities and vegged and hung by the pool 8) . I especially enjoyed the Solarium and my 16dd and I got a Mother/Daughter massage, which was simply amazing - my dd didn't want to leave the room, she just wanted the "nice ladies" to come back and do some more...lol. We also got a manicures. Let me tell you, however, the spa prices are almost double what you'd normally pay on land, so if you REALLY want a spa experience, be prepared to pay for it, big time. I wouldn't have traded that massage for anything but the manicure I could've done without.
We went with some friends who were our age (late 30's, early 40's) and so we had a lot of fun together; we hung out at this old English pub and the bartenders were great fun - my H sang karaoke and my dd even hung out with us one night and sang also! By the end of the week, my H convinced the bartender to sing with him! Two other nights we went to a dance club called The Chamber, where we danced so hard, I'm sure we made complete fools of ourselves, surrounded by mostly the early 20's crowd, but we had fun so who cares?
We didn't get hooked into the casino - neither my H nor our friends particularly like parting with money for no good reason. I went in, spent $10 in about 2.5 minutes and then we left. Enough of that! Haha. The third couple we were traveling with were older and they really liked the casino and the shows - vegas style - the shows weren't our cup of tea, really, they mostly played to the older crowd, but the ice show was amazing! That's a must see for sure.
We explored the ship and the kids checked out the skating rink, climbing wall, all the pools and jacuzzis and the mini golf, arcade, golf simulator, and the ball courts. We watch a couple of volleyball tournaments and wall climbing events - those were fun and it's very cool to be so high up (top deck, 14)!
We had a mandatory dinner in the dining room rule, but otherwise the kids liked the Windjammer buffet and Johnny Rockets - I have to admit that Johnny Rockets was my favorite place as I loved watching the waiters dance to all the motown - it was worth the littel bit of extra money IMO. My H liked the free food - go figure
- but he also enjoyed Johnny Rockets. I think everyone should at least check that out. And the food was real good there - I didn't think much of the Windjammer food, but I get a little grossed out by buffets in general anyway.
We went to a late night pool party/midnight buffet and that was a blast - we had such fun dancing and the bands that played all week by the pool were great!
We had balcony rooms, which are so worth the extra money. Our kids all had inner staterooms and they were so small and felt like dungeons, but the balcony rooms felt much brighter and roomier so I think it's worth the extra money. Just my opinion.
My favorite island was St. Maarten by far. We went to Orient Point beach, which is half nude, but we stayed on the 'mostly' clothed side - lots of topless women there, but you hardly notice after a while. I will tell you though, the boys in our party had to keep picking up thier jaws!!
- after a while, even they stopped gawking. And one completely nude man walked by - he was older and a little saggy, so we were all afraid to make any comments for fear of what would come out of our mouths - lol. We went jet skiing and snorkeling and one of us went scuba diving (not me). The water was so sparkling crystal blue and the beach was pristine...words can't describe how much it actually looks like all those pictures you've seen - absolutely breathtaking. I want to live there.
We also visited St. Thomas, but were too fried from St. Maarten to spend another day at the beach. So we took an open taxi tour around the island and went to some of the highest points - the view was amazing. We saw goat everywhere and giant iguanas, which were really cool and kinda scary! On St. Thomas we also did a little shopping, which was interesting. H and I aren't big into jewelry, but the streets were lined with jewelry shops. I did buy a cute ankle bracelet and a set of turqoise earrings which I love from a small local vendor. My dd bought her and her sister and a friend some necklaces also from a local vendor. And I had to buy a beach hat - the wind was howling near the water/marina. We ate at this really cool local bar and the food was great. We had authentic Coronas, they actually DO taste different than the ones we get here in the states. Yummy. 8)
We visited Puerto Rico and went to Old San Juan, which I really loved - the old architecture and small cobblestone streets, I thought, were really cool and interesting. I loved all the pastel buildings and old homes. I found this old church and when I went inside it was like a piece of my grandmother was with me. All the little (and big) statues were everywhere and they looked so much like the ones I remember from my grandma's bedroom in my house growing up. I didn't want to leave. Everyone else, besides H and my dd, hated Old San Juan - they kept calling it a dump and the slums. They just didn't get it - the old town, the culture. There was lots to see, but we wound up heading back to the boat because it started to pour!
We also visited Nassau Bahamas and since this was our final port of call before heading back to Miami, we decided to sign up for an excersion - big mistake! At the other ports of call, we kind of winged it and had fun. The excursion was a boat ride to Blackbeard Cay Beach and it was a 30 min ride there, an hour and a half on the beach and then a 30 minute ride back. The wind was howling, I thought my ears would pop, the sun went in so it wasn't very warm and the beach looked deserted - there was once a Sandals resort there, but it was empty! This crappy excursion took up our entire afternoon with all the waiting in line and the boat ride that we had no time to mill around the shops downtown. We got back just in time to catch our ship and change for dinner - it truly was not fun at all and I strongly suggest avoiding that particular excursion. I can't comment on any others, because we didn't do any as we did our own thing and had a blast.
The waters coming back from the Bahamas into Miami were rougher than we were used to and the ship was really rocking that last night, but we managed to ignore it and pack up okay and get out a little (*and I took Bonine). The kids, of course, wanted to soak up as much fun and squeeze in more activities into that last few hours, so they were out late, but the adults all packed it in by 11PM. We were up at 6 AM the next morning to disembark, which was a long line and a drag going through customs, but we made it to the airport on time to grab some grub and catch our flight out.
Leaving the islands was sooo soooo hard - I didn't want to leave, but it was also nice getting back home. It took me 3 hours to unpack and reorganize everything - talk about laundry! H and I probably will not go on another cruise but if we do, we'd like to go to Beliz or someplace else. H would like to go to Alaska, but I prefer warmer climates. Ultimately, when we vacation, we would rather visit an island for longer than a few hours, so it would be cool if there was a cruise that stayed overnight in port so you could visit an island for 2 days at least. But, I guess that's how the cruise lines make thier money - by trapping you on thier ship so you spend all your cash with them! And boy did we spend. I am not completely surprised and we did come in about $400 - $500 under what we budgeted, so that was good. But without even realizing it, you do go through a lot of money, especially if you drink alcohol and like to shop. Our friends spent about $3000 for the week, above the cost of the cruise itself!! BUT, they did have 4 in thier party, we only had 3. And they like to shop - a lot.
If I can ever figure out how to post pictures, I will but I haven't yet figured that out. Anyway, that's our cruise trip in a nutshell! It was fun and I'm glad we went!