Well, that was a mouthful of a title. I previously posted about our 7-day cruise to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean on the Adventure of the Seas that has gotten a fair amount of attention, so I thought I’d share our experience on a much smaller ship from a different port.
We decided to try a different ship from a new port as this summer the ships out of New Jersey had changed to the mega Oasis of the Seas and the Adventure of the Seas was headed to Canada/New England for the weeks we were considering. We wanted to go see a new port, Bermuda and take the kids. A smaller ship seemed more manageable with small children, and the port in Baltimore was about a 2.5 hour drive from our home in NJ.
Chris and the boys have never been to Bermuda, but I have been there twice before. I went once as a child around Monkey’s age (my oldest) and once in college during spring break. Actually, the last time I was there was the spring break the week before Chris and I met!
It was our very first family vacation with the kiddos, so it was full of nerves from all sides. The boys were excited, but nervous for what a ship was like, and I wanted to make sure I had every possible thing packed in case of an emergency!
Monkey was tasked from his uncle with the request to count how many times he had ice cream. This was their first time… and the final tally ended up being 26 scoops of ice cream!
I hadn’t realized how much smaller the ship was compared to the Adventure of the Seas, but it was quite smaller with less to do (though we planned to hang by the pool most of the time anyway). The interior was different, as there is no promenade like the other ships, so we kind of missed that “walk down the shops” on this ship.
They had all the regular amenities though, the Windjammer Cafe, the Main Dining Room, and the lounge chairs, fitness center, spa, bars, etc.
Luckily, we learned from our first time that Royal Caribbean does offer food in the Windjammer before setting sail, but it was packed. Our cruise last year, we booked lunch at Chops Grille, which was peaceful and quiet. This time around, it was difficult to find a seat anywhere to have a bite to eat. Especially with two children in tow and the need for a full table for four. If there is a next time, I’d consider a booked lunch somewhere we could easily sit and be served.
Once we were on our way, the evening was starting and we hung out outside and then made our way to dinner once we were settled in our room. This was the start of Monkey’s nighttime ice cream after dinner routine and he was thrilled after the first night they remembered it each day!
When we first arrived at our interior room, I had chosen one that went the length of the boat for a little more room and for rocking in the ocean we’d b rocked to sleep. We were surprised to find only the double bed setup and called guest services in a panic as to where the kids would sleep!
They were nice and said the beds would be bunk beds and be set up after we head out to dinner. They were right! They pulled down from the ceiling (something Monkey suspected when we questioned where they’d sleep) and were set up when we got back.
The highlight of my children’s vacation I believe was nothing other than these bunk beds and the ladders to swap and climb up and down all the time. They just wanted to climb them and hang out in the room!
Once we were out at sea, the first full day at sea it rained all day. We had thunder, lightning, and a rocky ride. The kids did really well, I not so much. While we all wore our sea bands and I took a ginger seasickness pill, I was super nervous. Did I ever tell you I don’t like large boats? A small boat I can climb back on, sign me up. A cruise ship… this is still a huge fear of mine despite doing it twice!
The rainy day at sea was the day the Women’s World Cup Soccer Final was on between the USA and Netherlands. I was thrilled they were able to get it set up at the mega screen on the pool deck despite the rain. We all just crammed ourselves under the coverings to watch the game and cheer as it appeared almost the entire boat seemed to be up there!
Each day was pretty easy going. We dropped the kids off at the Adventure Ocean center for a few hours to give them time to play with kid things and have fun, and give us a little break from their desire to spend time in the stateroom climbing the bunk beds!
At dinner, we were only a few people who went to the main dining room on the in-port day, so the Main Dining Room manager started to entertain our kids with magic tricks. He did this cool toothpick trick that even caught Chris off guard (he loves to do magic tricks) and a bunch of other fun tricks to keep them busy while we waited for our food.
When we were almost to port, we hung by the pool and enjoyed the sunshine until it was time to get off the boat. On the first day, we didn’t plan really well, not knowing the childcare hours for the two days in port, we dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean for a few hours to explore the island ourselves.
Once we were able to get off the boat, Chris quickly decided he wanted to rent scooters. I previously had reserved scooters for us prior to our trip, but then he got nervous that we wouldn’t be able to take the kids or we wouldn’t be safe on them. Well, I guess stepping off the boat without kids changed his mind!
We went the entire length of the island, which doesn’t seem like it’s that far, but it was a good 3-hour tour! We made it past the Crystal Caves but ran out of time to wait for their next tour since we had to get back to pick up the kids to take them to dinner. It was fun no less, and sparked an enjoyment and excitement for something to come when we got home from our trip!
I was thrilled we could at least dock in Bermuda for a full 24 hours. The Royal Naval Dockyard I saw as a kid but hadn’t been on that side of the island since then. In college, we hung more near Hamilton and such. We picked up the kids and enjoyed a super quiet dinner. All of the wait staff I think were thrilled they had someone to serve, as many just came over to chat, or do more magic tricks! And we’re frugal despite some of our spending, so this was a meal already bought and paid for in our opinion!
With the food on Royal Caribbean, I learned last year that they offer a great service for gluten-free or allergy avoidance dining. I felt confident in the main dining room, so each night I pre-ordered for the coming day and was not going to miss a meal there since I knew it would not only be tasty, but safe!
The Windjammer Cafe I was more disappointed with on this ship. While buffets are already difficult for me to eat at, this ship offered only a few items each day at lunch that were labeled gluten-free and usually were a grilled white fish (which I don’t eat) and white rice. By dinner each night, I was starving, since rice just wasn’t cutting it for me at lunch and breakfast was merely a yogurt or piece of fruit because there was no gluten-free section.
On Adventure of the Seas, they had an entire 1/4 of the food that was the same as the rest labeled as the gluten-free section. I didn’t discover that until the last few days, gahhh!, but when I did I thought this ship would have something similar. The buffet was far smaller with a lot less options, so I guess you do get what you pay for!
The last day of the cruise, I did venture off that gf section and tried something else as there were lots of items that seemed they would inherently be gluten-free, but maybe had shared a preparation area so they wouldn’t label them as so. I managed to not get sick on any of the days and felt fine when I got home. That was a HUGE win in my book!
On the first evening in Bermuda, we ventured on the island around the dockyard and let them pick out a souvenir to take home. Monkey chose a teacup and saucer, and Crab chose two bongos. Chris was just thrilled to find a Superman-style telephone booth that apparently still worked!
We explored their little shopping mall, they were having a craft fair that night which was fun to walk around, and then found a nice little snorkel beach we’d venture back out to the next day.
Monkey made a little friend on the ship so we ran into them a few times to play on swings or at the pool. Who knew how much they missed their swings at home!
The second day in Bermuda, Chris had to return the scooters. We thought about leaving the kids on the ship at Adventure Ocean to go ride around, but we decided to spend the time with them at the beach. He never wanted to let this scooter go!
The beach, as always, was a beautiful beach with turquoise water and lots of tropical fish. Monkey and I are a little touchy about fish swimming near us, so we went in and out a few times trying our best to avoid the fish that seemed to love coming right up to us!
After a while, it was time to reboard the ship so it could head home. Monkey was THRILLED to see Henry Vacuums everywhere on the ship. He even vacuumed the main stairs one day for a worker because he just “had to get [his] hands on one of those!”
The cruise back to Baltimore was pretty uneventful and calm. It was much nicer than the storm we went through to get to Bermuda. Despite it all, I did tell Chris I’d rather fly somewhere and stay next time than cruise. Chris loves the atmosphere of a cruise, all the people, and the buffets. For me, not so much. I love the boats, the exploration, and the ocean, but I do not sleep on cruises. I wish I could sit right with the captain to make sure we won’t sink overnight!
I did do far better this time around though than the first. I watched the staff to see if they were nervous with the stormy rocking ship and they hadn’t even noticed. They do this daily, so Chris always said, if they aren’t worried, neither should you be.
The port in Baltimore was very organized. It was smaller than Bayonne, and I’d say just about organized in the drop-off, parking, and heading up to the ship. We got there right when we could board, like many others, and it was busy but moving. They had you pay for parking when you got there, which I thought was nice so it was easy to leave when we got off the ship.
The Grandeur of the Seas was clearly an older ship. It didn’t offer what Adventure of the Seas did, and now I know why the cost was quite a bit lower. It was a good ride to get to where you want to go, and if we lived closer it would be fine. Just the 2 1/2 hour drive to get there was a lot with the kids, and the drive home as well. I said IF I ever go on another cruise, it’ll just be from New Jersey so it’s an hour drive and we’re on the boat.
I’d like to eventually try a larger ship with more amenities, but not in the near future. I’d like to go back to flying and staying in an area for more time. The constant clock-watching for me is stressful to make sure we’re back on the boat in time, especially when we’ve gone to ports for just 6-8 hours for a visit. I’d like to immerse myself in the location a bit more, or feel a little more laid back.
The parties on cruise ships also all seem to get up and running after 10pm. Whether with the kids or not, I was in bed around 8pm anyway. I’m am early sleeper and love to get up early. I joined many at 5am on the side of the ship to enjoy the peace and quiet most days.
Overall, Royal Caribbean offers a similar experience between the two ships, just the larger the ship the more options or locations you might have to go to or have fun at or more shows to see, things to do onboard. The food was on par with both ships, just missing some extra gluten-free options on the smaller boat. They are pretty organized and spot on with their experience, so we’d definitely cruise with them again if/when we decide to try another one.
For now, we’re attempting a flight to Disney World in August with the boys, so we’ll see how that goes! Chris and I haven’t flown a lot in the last decade, but we’re hoping now that we’ve turned a financial corner we can plan trips a little more each year. Our boys now have passports, so let’s put them to good use!