A Cruise Filled With Wonder
I recently had the pleasure of going on a short 3-night cruise on the largest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas. I had been on other cruises before but this was my first time with Royal Caribbean. And for my wife and daughters, it was their first cruise ever. For them, a 3-night cruise was perfect to test the waters to see if a cruise was the right type of vacation for them.
I wanted to ensure that we did something where no one got sick, or at least, was less likely to. And that we didn't run out of things to do. Both of those, for the most part, were achieved on our trip. In fact, not only did we not run out of things to do, we didn't even get a chance to explore everything on the ship.
While most things when smoothly once we were on the ship, the first 24 hours of our trip were a little bit rocky. When going on a cruise it's always a good idea to fly in the day before in case there are any issues with your flight, which in our case there were. Our flight was delayed for almost 4 hours and once we finally arrived in Orlando, the line to get our car rental took another 2 hours. It ended up being pretty late in the evening once we got to our hotel.
Getting onto the ship the next morning didn't go quite perfectly either. I thought it would be easy just to park the rental car at the terminal and get on the cruise. However, the line to park was quite long and barely moved. I still don't quite understand what was holding things up but this added almost another two hours. We had planned to get on the ship at 1130 and it was after 1 by the time we even parked the car.
We got all of our luggage out of the car only to realize we were missing a backpack with some of my daughters' important items. I called the hotel to see if they had the backpack, which they found in our room. So I had to grab an Uber to go back to the hotel and pick up the backpack while the rest of my family boarded the ship. Luckily the hotel we stayed at was only about 1.5 miles from the cruise port and in about half an hour the Uber brought me back to the cruise port where I was able to make it aboard the ship before it left.
The check-in process to get on the ship went quite smoothly. Royal Caribbean had numerous people to help check in and get people through security. It worked much more efficiently than airport security. In fact, it was about 15 minutes between the time I got out of the Uber and was on the ship.
I got on the ship on the promenade level which was two stories high and was filled with shops, bars, a cafe, and a couple of places to eat. I didn't spend too much time on the promenade level as I had to go and meet the rest of my family in the Windjammer Cafe, which is the ship's buffet, on the 15th level. The food here on the first afternoon was not that great, unfortunately. The few things I had were overcooked and the meat was dried out. At the time this just added to the disappointing start to the vacation.
By the time we were done eating our stateroom was ready for us to get acquainted with. We stayed in a balcony room for four on the 7th deck of the ship. If you've ever been on a cruise you know a balcony room is a must, which is why on newer ships, like Wonder of the Seas, around 70% of cabins have a balcony. Our room had a large king-size bed for my wife and me as well as a pull-out bed that was about as large as a king-size bed for my girls to sleep on. And there was actually quite a bit of storage space in the room as there were closets for hanging clothes on either side of the bed along with a dresser with multiple drawers. Normally when I vacation I just live out of my suitcase but with a limited amount of room in the cabin it made sense to put my clothes in the closet. And there was plenty of room to do so. The bathroom also had enough shelves in it where I was able to have my own shelf just for my stuff. Royal Caribbean did a really good job of making sure there was no wasted space in our cabin.
Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner. We had picked the early dining option at 5:30 pm because the kids would not have been able to wait until the late dinner at 8 pm to eat dinner. Plus this gave us time to see some of the earlier shows in the evening. Dinner in the main dining room was top-notch every night we were there. I tried something different each night we ate there, from seafood to braised beef to lamb, it was all excellent. One thing that did surprise me a little bit was how few people dressed up for dinner. I didn't expect people to be in suits and formal dresses every night but I didn't expect to see several people in t-shirts.
There were also several tables in the main dining room that sat empty throughout our dinner, possibly because more people were in the late dining or they were enjoying one of the other specialty dining options onboard. We did not eat at any of the specialty dining restaurants during our 3-night cruise. With my young daughters, it didn't make sense to spend the extra money to try the other options. Maybe next time we will want to switch it up one night. Besides, as I said earlier, the dinner food in the main dining room was all really good.
After dinner the first night we had some time to explore the ship a little bit before one of my daughters and I had a reservation to the aquashow at 9 pm. We decided to go to the top deck with the playground. The playground on Wonder of the Seas isn't super large but it had some slides, areas to crawl and climb as well as a light-up game. It had enough to keep my daughters busy for quite a while. And before we knew it, it was time to go to the aquashow located at the back of the ship on level 6.
We got to the aquashow about 15 minutes prior to the start time to get good seats. And we were able to get about 5 rows from the front. At this time the waters in the sea were pretty rough and the boat was rocking quite a bit. The water in the pool for the show was splashing around from end to end, with a lot of it spilling out. Shortly after the show was supposed to start the cruise director came to the stage and said that the show would have to be canceled for that night. They were going to try to wait to see if the water calmed down but it didn't look like it was going to that night. So the show got rescheduled for the 3rd night at the same time.
We ended up opting to try to see the aquashow on the 2nd night of the cruise instead with my wife and other daughter coming with us as well. For each show there are a limited number of seats available for those that don't have a reservation. We arrived at the entrance to the theater 30 minutes before the show was to start and there was already a short line of people waiting to get in.
While we waited, I took my daughters to the carousel located near the aquatheater. And we went on it about half a dozen times before we got let in to see the aquashow. The carousel became a big hit with my daughters as they asked to go on it several times throughout the rest of the cruise. There was never a line to get on so they were able to ride it as much as they wanted.
The aquashow itself was quite impressive with diving, acrobatics, and gymnastics. It was 45 minutes of non-stop action that was worth the wait. My 5-year-old especially liked it as she enthusiastically clapped after each act was performed. Anyone that gets a chance to go on Wonder of the Seas should definitely check out the aquashow. As far as shows on the ship, the aquashow was the only one that I went to see myself. My wife and daughter went to the ice show on the third night of our cruise and they thought it was very good as well. Had we been on a longer cruise I would have liked to have seen additional shows, especially the comedy show, but that was the first show that sold out well before the start of our cruise.
Later in the evening, after my daughters were in bed for the night, I wandered around the ship to check out the nightlife. The promenade area was definitely the busiest section with live music, a multiple bars to choose from. I sat at the Cask & Clipper bar for a while one night and listened to a single guitarist play classic rock hits from multiple decades. After sitting there for a while I went across the deck to Sorrentos Pizza, one of the few late nite eateries, to grab a couple of slices of pepperoni pizza. There was a line of 15-20 people to get pizza but it moved pretty quickly. The pizza was tasty, so much so that I stopped there every evening at some point before calling it a night.
After I finished my pizza I headed back towards the area where the aquatheater was to a bar called Playmakers. This was the only place I found that had multiple craft beers on tap on the ship. It was also the sports bar and had numerous large TVs inside and outside. It happened to be Sunday night so there were quite a few NFL fans watching the Sunday night game, but there were open tables around if I had wanted to stick around to watch. However, I wanted to explore a little bit more.
I went up a couple of levels to the Central Park area. There were a couple of shops in this area as well as some restaurants, most of which were closed when I was walking through. It really did feel like I was walking through a park at night here. It was a quiet and peaceful atmosphere, much different than the busy promenade deck.
Before I called it a night I wanted to walk around the top of the ship to the pool deck. It was pretty quiet in this area as well. There were a few people in the hot tubs and sometimes teenagers running around but with the pools closed and nothing playing on the large video screen, there wasn't much to see or do here a night anyway except to look up at the stars.
The next day was our first stop in Nassau, Bahamas. We had originally planned to get to one of the resorts that offered one-day passes and spend time at the beach or in the pools. However because of our delays getting on the ship the previous day we decided we wanted to spend some more time on board the ship. We did get off the ship in Nassau for a little bit and walked around the markets that are right near the cruise terminal exit. We were only off the ship for a couple of hours before we headed back to the ship with my daughters who were very excited about the splash pad.
Even though it was a port day the pool deck, pools and splash pad were busy, although we were able to find chairs to sit at without having to search too far. The splash pad was big enough to keep the kids occupied for quite a while. And it also allowed me some time to check out the waterslides. There were three on the ship. Two of them I really enjoyed while the third wasn't my favorite and wasn't as exciting as it looked. The lines for the slides weren't very long and I was able to go down each of the slides a couple of times.
We also spent some time in the pools, although they got more crowded as the afternoon went on. There were three pools on the pool deck to enjoy and, of course my 5 year old wanted to try all three of them. There were plenty of loungers in and around the pool to sit and relax. During the afternoon we were there they had world cup soccer on the big screen that could be seen from two of the three pools. We had so much fun in the pools that afternoon that before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner that evening.
The next day the cruise stopped at Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas, Coco Cay. We got up early and ate breakfast in the Windjammer cafe, which had a ton of options. From pancakes, to eggs benefit, to omlets, cereal, fruits. Almost any breakfast item you could think of was there. I couldn't decide what I wanted and I ended up getting three different plates of food to help tide me over for a while.
Upon departing the ship there were hopped on one of the trams provided to take us from the ship to the island. It wasn't that far and many people walked but since there wasn't a line to take the tram we decided to get on board. Like its ships, Royal Caribbean's private island is separated into different sections with different activities and different feels to them. We headed towards the Chill Island section first where we would find some beach chairs and some calm water to swim in. There were a ton of beach chairs available, and while they did fill up as the day went on, there were always open spots. My daughters had a blast playing in the sand and in the water here for most of the morning.
After the beach, we headed towards the splash pad and to get some food. There was a complimentary snack shack with a buffet full of burgers, hot dogs, salads, fruits and build-your-own tacos available, near the splash pad. So after we grabbed one of the limited tables near the splash pad we were able to sit and eat our lunch.
The splash pad on Coco Cay was much large than the one on the ship. It was a little intimidating for my 2 and 5-year-old and we didn't spend a lot of time there. However, the pirate ship on Coco Cay that has water blasters and slides that my daughters enjoyed much more than the splash pad. The private ship did seem to be geared towards younger kids and was perfect for them. I was also able to climb up the ship and get a good view of the cruise dock.
The next stop on our adventure around Coco Cay was the Oasis Lagoon, the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean. The lounge chairs around the pool were a little more full and it took us a few minutes to find a spot to set our stuff down. The pool had a zero entry section on one end and a swim up bar towards the other side where a DJ was blasting dance music. For a pool in the middle of the Bahamas with the sun shining down on it all day, the water was actually quite cold. It was colder than the ocean water had been and it took a few minutes to get used to it.
At one point I went up to the swim up bar to grab a drink, which ended up being a bit of a mistake. The bar was super busy and it took quite a while to get a drink and I really had to work to get the attention of a bar tender. Thi was the only time on the entire cruise I had received subpar service. There was another bar at the snack shack not too far away and I would go there next time for a drink.
We had our fun in the pool and decided to head towards another area of the island known as South Beach. To get there from the pool we took a nice walk through some tropical brush. In the South Beach area there were more beach chairs to sit at along with games such as bags and giant jenga along with a volleyball and basketball court. This was the section of the island to go to be more active. There was also a floating bar sitting about 10 feet out into the water. The water here was also very calm, which makes it great for kids to swim in. Here we just relaxed for a little while before we had to head back to the ship.
From South Beach we took the island tram, which is separate from the ship to island tram, back to near the ship dock. We decided to walk back to the ship from here to get some photos and videos as we were walking back. There really was a great view of the back of the ship from the dock. We weren't the only ones with this idea as many people were stopping to take photos of the ship.
Once back on board the ship we had dinner, my wife and older daughter went to the ice show and then we took both girls to Adventure Ocean, Royal Caribbean's kids club. Because of their difference in ages they were in separate rooms, but they each had no problem getting dropped off while mom and dad had some time alone time. We spent that time in the solarium, the adults only area of the ship. There are a few whirlpools in this area which we had to ourselves for most of the time we were in there. It was kind of amazing how empty some places on the ship felt even though there were over 500o people on it, over 7000 if you include the crew.
We didn't leave our daughters in the kids club too long as it was already way past their normal bed time and it was the last night of the cruise so we had to wake up very early the next day. Both of my daughters had lots of fun at the kids club and it is something we would definitely take more advantage of the next time we cruise.
Debarkation the next moring went quite smooth and quick. We were off the ship and in our rental car by about 745 am. We left with lots of memories and thoughts of going on another trip again in the future.