Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Explorer of the Seas
Sailing Date: November 15th, 2003
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean with a 10 month old daughter!
This was a snap. As long as you had your pre-boarding documents with you everything went smoothly. The lines were long but fast, and we got a category C suite so there was a separate line for us, and since we were repeat Royal Caribbean cruisers, we were Gold Members, and that also entitled you to a separate line, for faster service. There are elevators so feel free to take your strollers. We booked the air and transfers from Dayton to Miami with Royal Caribbean International (RCI), so everything was included in the small binder they provide for your cruise. Make sure to read that little booklet thoroughly; it will answer most of your questions, as well as the web site, that too was very helpful. Once we landed in Miami we had to claim our own bags, but there was a RCI representative by the baggage claim area. Find this person and ask them where the shuttles to the ships are located. They will then lead you to the bus which corresponds to your ship. Make sure drop off your luggage with them and bring your carry on bag with you on the bus, you will have your bags by 6pm that evening, before dinner! You will give your voucher to the bus driver as you board the bus. Place your provided luggage tags on your bags before you leave your home. As long as your child is under 2 all you need is a birth certificate. I think that covers embarkation
Exploring the Explorer of the Seas
This ship is awesome! I sailed on the Voyager of the seas 2 years ago with my wife and a bunch of friends and this ship is just like Voyager with just some décor changes, and both ships are breathtaking. We loved our category C suite, and I recommend it highly! It is much bigger than an inside cabin, and the extra room compared to a non-suite outside cabin is perfect for an infant. We had a walk-in closet and a bathtub, so we were able to give out 10-month-old baths instead of cramped showers with daddy. That’s right a WALK IN CLOSET! We stored the baby’s travel stroller, baby-back-pack, and umbrella stroller out of our way, and had plenty of drawer and hanger space to spare. There was also a mini-fridge that had items for sale, but also some space for formula etc. We re-washed our bottles in the sink and mixed our own formula. We used the ships tap water sometimes but brought bottled water to mix her formula most of the time. We asked for a crib and our steward brought a pack-n-play which I assembled easily. The door to the balcony is made with a latch that you have to turn 180 degrees to open the door, so young children will have a hard time getting out to the balcony, so don’t worry about that. Our friends got a family suite located on the very front of the ship, which as a separate bunk bed for kids, which they liked a lot, although being on the front of the ship lead you to be more susceptible to sea sickness.
Ship comments with children
Get first seating if possible. We got second seating and our daughter was cranky almost every night, unless we planned the naps right on time. Had we had first seating I think we would have made more formal dinners. The Windjammer, the buffet informal dining was the highlight to our cruise/dining experience with our daughter. The food was excellent, and we got all our food at once so she could eat and pick and choose. As opposed to the formal setting where we had to wait for each course and if she liked something, we simply could get more. As soon as we would walk into the windjammer, all the waiters and cooks would comment on our daughter, since many of them have children of their own, and we always got star treatment. High chairs were provided once you asked anyone, and they fit right over your table. My wife would usually find a table and I would obtain a selection of food from the buffet and be seated by the time she gets situated with the baby and we are eating before you know it. Also, I recommend you buy a fountain card. I bought one for $40.00 on the first day of the cruise for unlimited fountain drinks, and it paid for itself in a couple of days! After awhile your waiters know you own one and get the drink without you asking. Otherwise, Ice Tea, Coffee, Lemonade and water are provided for free.
We also visited the Café Promenade several times a day for cookies, pizza, cokes and coffee 24 hours a day. This was truly the best invention they had on the ship. A couple of times I was up late and I would just walk to deck 5 and have a coffee and cookie and just hang out.
We took our daughter to main dining several nights and they provided her with a high chair, but you had to dress up for dinner and sometimes you just want to be casual, so her mood determined where and when we ate. One night I ordered our formal dinner in our room and they brought us the entire course to our room, the exact dinner we would have gotten, as long as it is during the dinner times. That was nice.
Johnny Rockets is a must also. We ate there almost every day, and the food is great! Try the chili-dog, and original burger. The shakes are great, although you have to pay for them, again a drink card here will get you a tall bottomless coke! If all the tables are taken, there is a carry out line in the back, just order your food and eat on the deck or take it back to your stateroom. You can also self seat yourself on the counter, just like a real diner! Ask for nickels and you get to choose your own songs on the juke box. If you play respect by Aretha Franklin, the waiters dance!
There is a great arcade on deck 12 for older children, it is very expensive though so make sure to put a limit on the gaming. Deck 13 has full court basketball and a 9 hole putt-putt golf course. There is also an inline skating rink and a golf simulator. There is also ice skating on deck 3 during sea days.
In the end we tipped everyone for 3 passengers because Bryn was treated so well and made as much trash as my wife and I.
We stopped at San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau. We just shopped at each port and hit the beach at St. Maarten and St. Thomas. We did the dolphin encounter at Nassau. I put our daughter in a back-pack carrier which worked great, just bring plenty of bottled water because it gets hot. We mixed formula on the run, and had plendly of snacks for her, but she did fine. I highly recommend Megans bay at St. Thomas. Go there in the morning to beat the rush and avoid the really hot sun, then go back to the ship, freshen up and explore the shops!
The cruise has a great itinerary, the crew and ship are both child and infant friendly, and there is plenty to do on the ship. We are definitely returning to RCI. We also found it helpful to have a walkie-talkie on board. We brought a T5700 motorola with a 5 mile limit. This worked well when we left our daughter with our parents, or when I would hit the spa or gym. If there were any problems we could just contact each other. It also helped when shopping with friends, we could split up on the Island and do our own shopping and still find each other without difficulty.
Some other issues, don’t plan on making the shows with a young infant, we were able to watch pay-per-view movies in our stateroom, which was great, they had continuous movies running daily too. I think next time I will book my own flight and get a non-stop flight into Miami, RCI got the cheapest flight which required a layover, which is hard traveling with a 10 month old. We bought her a seat on the plane, I highly recommend that, even though you pay more, the extra room on the plane is nice for you and your child.
That’s it! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me! Enjoy your cruise. Just roll with the punches, remember, having fun is the name of the game, and just being with my family was the best part. The ship, crew and islands were wonderful. I would return in a second.