Little French Key // Roatan, Honduras

Little French Key // Roatan, Honduras

So back in the beginning of 2019 my husband, our 3 kids and my mom wanted to do a Big Family Vacation that would be fun for everyone involved.   With 3 kids and Safta (grandma in Hebrew) we knew we wanted to do either an all-inclusive resort or a cruise because Mommy was not interested in being a cruise director.  I wanted someone else to be a cruise director.  So we decided on…a cruise! And we were so glad we did.  One of the best family vacations we’ve ever been on, for SO MANY REASONS.  We sailed onboard Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, (stay tuned for future blog posts about this trip) and I could spend days on all the reasons we loved this vacation.  But just one of those reasons was our excursion to Little French Key when we stopped in Roatan, Honduras for our day at port.

King Triton, defending us vacationers from who knows what – maybe Urusla

After a couple of days at sea, our first stop was to Roatan, Honduras.  Roatan is a little island off of the mainland.  We wanted to go somewhere really special and after a lot of research decided on Little French Key.  Now you can’t book Little French Key through the cruise lines, and a lot of cruise lines will try to scare you away from booking excursions not through them.  They will frighten you with stories of people not getting back to the boat on time and yes, try searching on YouTube for “missing cruise ship at port” and you will find plenty of footage of people who for one reason or another literally…miss the boat.  Not fun and I don’t recommend it.  However the people who run Little French Key have been doing this for almost two decades and they have the process down, and that’s what makes this place so special.  The cruise ships like activities that can handle a huge volume of people, which is fine if you’re going to a big place that can handle that amount of people.  We’ve done plenty of shore excursions through the cruise ships directly and they can be great!  However this place operates more like a luxury boutique hotel and if the capacity wasn’t limited, it would ruin the experience. 

So we got ourselves breakfast on the ship, and then headed out to meet our shuttle to LFK’s little port.  As soon as you disembark from the ship, their drivers will be there waiting for your arrival outside the ship terminal. To get to their drivers from the Mahogany Bay’s Terminal,  walk outside and you see the taxi’s on your left. (If you have difficulty walking any Taxi will bring you to the outside of the gate for $2 per person – check with LFK to make sure this is still accurate), if not then please take a left and follow the main road up the hill for few minutes, until you get to the MAIN GATE OF THE PORT (this is important!).  Once you pass the   guard, keep walking down and look for the drivers on the right side. To get to your driver from the Coxen Hole Port of Roatan Terminal, When you get off the ship, exit to gate 1 for pick-up. You’ll find their representatives, who will supply you with the transportation to their private resort. Their drivers will always be wearing Frenchy’s 44 shirts with the LFK logo.

What’s up with the #44?  Click here to find out!

While we were waiting for our shuttle you will definitely see a more “real” view of Roatan ie poor.  However it was pretty clean and we didn’t feel we were in an unsafe area.  Once we got into our air conditioned shuttle van it was a 20ish minute drive to their port.  So LFK is a little island off an island and there’s a flatbed ferry to take you from one side to the other.  It’s very stable and is only about a 5 minute ride.  From there you get on the island, wait in line to pay for whatever package you decided on (we paid for the package that includes lunch, two drinks (could be alcoholic or if you are me and my mom you ask for two Diet Cokes) and for my husband and our girls we also got them a boat trip to go snorkeling, which they were crazy excited about.  LFK also includes paddleboards, kayaks and snorkel equipment (first come first serve) that my girls took advantage of before their snorkeling adventure.  My son was 5 ½ at the time and as he was too young for the snorkeling, he was more than happy to splash around in the absolute perfect water and playing in the sand.

My son’s happy place

First experience paddle-boarding!

The water!!  Oh my goodness, the water.  This was my kid’s first opportunity to experience just how warm the water is and they were like “where have you been my whole life???”  We live in the SF Bay Area and go to the beach quite often.  The water where we live, is cold.  Like I-will-stick-my-feet-in-if-I-have-to-but-it’s-really -freaking-cold and I’d be just as happy not to!  My kids will suck it up and get used to it because they love to be in the ocean but it’s NOTHING compared to the water in the Caribbean Sea.  So blue, so clean, so beautiful.  PRO-TIP:  If going with kids to LFK that aren’t strong swimmers, bring their puddle jumper!  There are spots where the water is deep enough that you need to swim, there’s fun activities like an “island jumper” that’s basically like having a bounce house in the middle of the water that’s a bouncy platform for the kids to climb on and then jump off and it would have been really nice to have his swimmy, but cie la vie.

I can fly!

My husband and our girls jumped off the ledge, me and our son…not so much

There’s a great spot to jump off a platform into the water and my son would have felt much more confident had we brought his swimmy.  It’s not like a water park where there are life vests all over the place, you need to bring your own.  Oh well, live and learn.  Still, we all loved the water and exploring the part of the island we were on, there’s benches over the water you can swim/walk to, swim up bars, over the water hammocks to lounge around on, even see-saws in the water.  Fun!

I tried to convince my kids to pose for Instagram but they were too busy swimming

That water – unbelivable

While my husband took the girls on their snorkeling adventure, my mom and I stayed back to relax on the chaise lounges – I mean supervise my son.  Our waiter was just amazing and took such great care of us.  Once my husband and our girls got back from snorkeling (which I was told was AMAZING!  We saw so many FISH!!  I was like a MERMAID!!!) everyone was hungry and we got our lunch, which was beyond delicious.  We got a combo plate with chicken, rice, fries and plantains.  If you are gluten free or vegetarian/vegan not to worry, just tell your awesome waiter and he or she will take care of you.  While you are visiting, of course there are souvenirs to buy.  I had a friend who had gone on a trip to Israel and brought me back a hamsa refrigerator magnet (I have a collection of hamsas) so I of course needed to find her just the perfect refrigerator magnet, which you can see here for yourself:

Tell me you wouldn’t want someone to bring you home this

 This is what your kids look like after a day at the beach

LFK has easy to spot signs that show the island time vs ship time and what time you MUST leave to get back in time for the ship.  We could have stayed longer than we did but we wanted to play it safe.  So after a day of enjoying paradise we knew we needed to pack it in and head back to the boat. 

We really can’t wait to go back.  (Although at the time of this writing we’ve been stuck at home because of Covid for 3 months so I’d be happy to go literally anywhere at this point, but I digress).  They have actual scuba diving, horseback riding, an animal sanctuary, swimming with the pigs and more.  I would highly recommend LFK if you want to enjoy a day of paradise with everything you could want for the day.  LFK is probably not the cheapest excursion you could do on Roatan but we felt it was great value for our money and we will definitely return for more time in paradise. 

What’s your favorite thing to do at the beach?  Swimming in the ocean?  Lounging on a chaise?  Kayaking?  Tell me in the comments below?  What would you see yourself doing at Little French Key?

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Top 10 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, secrets and tricks

Top 10 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, secrets and tricks

Drone shot of Perfect Day at Cocoa Cay 

Royal Caribbean’s private island in The Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay, has become one of it’s favorite port destinations in the Bahamas with all of the great activities and things to do since it’s complete $250 million overhaul in 2019.

Here are our top ten tips and tricks for visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay for when you are planning your own visit to Perfect Day at CocoCay!

1. There is lots to do that costs nothing extra

There is a lot of attention for the activities on Perfect Day at CocoCay that costs extra, but there is a lot of fun things to do that costs absolutely nothing extra.

First and foremost, you can walk around Perfect Day at CocoCay without paying extra.  Just like any port of call, you can walk off the ship and explore on your own.

Here is a list of things that is included with your cruise fare when you visit Perfect Day at CocoCay:

  • Splashaway Bay
  • Captain Jill’s Galleon
  • Skipper’s Grill
  • Chill Grill
  • Snack Shack
  • Oasis Lagoon pool (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • Chill Island (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • South Beach (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • Sports Courts
  • Fitness Classes
  • Freshwater showers
  • Tram service
  • Beach access wheelchairs

However, if you are going to spend some of your hard earned cash on some experiences while at Coco Cay…

2. Buy an admission to Thrill waterpark before the cruise to save money

If you want to go to Thrill Waterpark, make sure you pre-purchase it before your cruise, you will absolutely save money vs buying passes onboard the ship.

Royal Caribbean sells its waterpark passes via the Cruise Planner site and regularly puts the tickets on sale.  If you want to save money (who doesn’t?), buy your tickets before you board the ship.

3. Best times for shortest water slide lines

Thrill Waterpark is home to Perfect Day at CocoCay’s incredible water slides, and as you might imagine, a lot of cruisers are going to want to try them all.  While lines for the slides are usually quite manageable, here are the best times to try the slides to have a minimal wait:

  • Before 11am
  • After 3pm

4. Your drink package works at Perfect Day at Coco Cay

If you purchase a Royal Caribbean drink package for your cruise, you can use the drink package benefits while at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

This means if you have the Deluxe Beverage Package, you can enjoy unlimited alcoholic beverages, along with bottled water, sodas and more. Likewise, the Refreshment Package and Soda Package benefits extend to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Just like on the ship, souvenir cups or drinks served in pineapples/coconuts are not included with your drink package benefits.  If you have the Deluxe Beverage Package, you can get a discount on the souvenir cup.  Or you can ask for the drink in a regular cup to pay no additional charge.

 

5. Your Voom package works at Perfect Day at CocoCay

If you have a  Voom internet package,  you will have internet connectivity at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

WiFi coverage extends across the island, which means you can stay connected and share photos or videos with friends back home.  You can even post updates and pics in the comments below!  We’d love to see you photos!

6. Secret menu item at Snack Shack

Snack Shack serves up some great food, but they also have a menu item that is not listed on the printed menu. If you ask nicely, you can get a chicken parmigiana sandwich that is essentially a cross between the crispy chicken sandwich, mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce.

7. Free tram service around the island

Keep an eye out for the complimentary trams that are found around Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Beginning when you walk down the pier, you will find tram service to take you down the pier to save some steps (you will have plenty at Thrill Waterpark).

Once on the island, there is complimentary tram service that can take you all corners of Perfect Day at Coco Cay.

8. If you want a quiet spot, go to Chill Island

If your idea of a fun day is quiet time getting away from it all, head to Chill Island.  Chill Island is accessible via the green pathway that is towards the left side when you walk onto Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Once at Chill Island, keep to the left side of the area for pristine ocean views that has no music or the sounds of people at the pool or water park.  Instead, you will find only the sound of the ocean waves.

 

9. DIY Ice cream sandwiches

You will find self-serve soft serve ice cream machines at Perfect Day, along with chocolate chip cookies…I bet you know where I am going with this.

Grab two cookies, dispense ice cream between the two and voila!  The perfect treat!

10. Keep an eye out for chickens, iguanas and birds

This is a fun tidbit, but Perfect Day at CocoCay is home to more than just beautiful views.  If you walk enough of the island, it is not uncommon to see wild chickens roaming the grounds, along with iguanas that sometimes get close to the dining areas to see if any scraps of food rolled away.

Seagulls can also be found flying around, so be sure to keep an eye on your food.

Regardless of the animal, please do not feed any of them.

 Need some help with wedding planning stress? Click HERE for my free video “The Top 5 Things You MUST Do When Planning a Destination Wedding.

What to Expect on Embarkation Day When Sailing Liberty of the Seas – Port City Galveston

What to Expect on Embarkation Day When Sailing Liberty of the Seas – Port City Galveston

Getting through embarkation is a procedure, but a necessary part of getting right to the good part – the cruise!

What is it like to cruise with your husband, your mom and your three kids?  Well, it’s a procedure!  But not difficult at all as long as you plan ahead and have some degree of organization.  Our kids are pretty seasoned travelers.  They are usually on a plane at least once a year, if not more.  The longest they’ve flown is cross country.  So far I’ve been hesitant to have them fly longer than that, although at the end of 2021 we’ll be flying to Israel for our eldest daughter’s Bat Mitzvah (future blog post!!).  But here’s our embarkation experience porting out of Galveston Texas, to board Liberty of the Seas for a 7 night cruise in the Western Caribbean:

First off, we flew into Houston and spent the night at a hotel near the airport.  Pro Tip:  NEVER fly the same day you embark (get on the ship on Day 1).  You are just asking for trouble!  Flight delays, baggage issues, traffic, there are just too many opportunities to miss the boat, pun intended ha ha.  Don’t do it!  Fly (or drive, unless you live super super close to port, in which case good for you) in the night before, get a hotel near the airport and then Uber or ask your travel adviser to set up transportation for you.  Less stress and less opportunity for mess!

 Our first look at the ship!  Yes it was pretty overcast at the time but that cleared up right quick

Once you get to to the port, it’s a lot of cars and a lot of people and a lot of employees helping those people to get through to the check in area!  There are multiple cruise ships docked, people are coming and going and did I mention it’s a lot of people?  Your paperwork (that you should have printed out and put in a binder for safekeeping) does tell you to check in at a certain time, but honestly I would just get to the port as early as possible.  The sooner you get to the port, the sooner you get through your embarkation process, the sooner you’re on the boat and the sooner you’re on your way to fun!  They have porters who will help you tag your luggage if you haven’t already, take your luggage that is not staying with you (pro tip #2:  Make sure to keep a carry on with you (click here to read about what to put in your carry-on).

Need to know what to bring in your carry-on when you’re going on a cruise?  Click here for the must haves (and some don’t ).


Next you’ll be going through security and then through the lines to to check in and get your SeaPass card!  I have had good luck getting to the port early and not having to wait in line for too long.  Leave a message in the comments below – what are your tips for getting through the check in process?

Once you’re through checking in, you’ll proceed to another area…to wait some more.  For this trip we were just in the general waiting area (my husband was not into paying for the special priority area) and there’s lots of people but it’s run like clockwork and we killed time by looking around at the stuff they are selling (trust me there’s always opportunities to buy things).  We forgot our lanyards (doh!) but bought one for of each of us, and considered it a souvenir.  Once they called our group number we were on our way!

Finally on the gangway, ready to get on the ship and ready for the fun to start

We got onboard Liberty of the Seas at lunchtime, and the kids were hungry so we headed over to the WindJammer, Royal Caribbean’s buffet dining room, which is open for break, lunch, dinner and “tea-time”.  Now a lot of people will tell you, don’t visit the buffet during embarkation day because it will be packed, and they are correct.  However I have 3 kids and we were all hungry so off we went.  To be honest, there were a lot of people there but we found a table, the WindJammer is clean, bright and airy, windows all around to enjoy the view and delicious food!  I don’t know about you but with kids we love buffets.  There’s something for everyone and the kids can get what they want, we can get what we want and everyone is happy.  The Windjammer has a ton of options, from American food, Asian and Indian cuisine (look for the area marked “Jade”), soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas, burgers, hot dogs and frieds and of course desserts and COOKIES, my nemesis.

 

Lunchtime in the Windjammer

After everyone was fed and satiated, we were still a little early to go to our staterooms, as they wouldn’t be available until after 1pm.  But that’s ok because we had our carry-ons and this is why it’s so important to pack the right things in it!  We had our bathing suits and sunscreen and we let the kids get their suits on and into the water.  The Lido deck (aka where the pools are) has two pools, side by side, but they aren’t super wide.  However they are great to sit around when they have events like the belly flop contests, which are always fun to watch (or participate in, depending on how much of an extrovert/masochist – hey those bellow flops hurt – you are).  The Lido deck also includes the Aqua Park right next to the regular pools, but it’s separated by a wall and the stage where the musicians play during the day.

Quick dip in the pool on deck 11

Sabrina (my oldest) was old enough to do the Flow Rider on deck 13 and she asked me to come with her so she could check it out.  One of the things I really enjoy about a cruise is the sheer amount of walking we do!  Pro tip #3:  Keep yourself active and work off all the food you’ll be eating by walking and taking the stairs as much as possible.  You can do up to 20k/steps a day or more on a cruise if you’re active and that just leaves more room for the delectable desserts.



Hang 10, my child

The flow rider is this giant surfing machine that allows you to experience boogie boarding and surfing while in one contained area.  Very cool to do so while on a cruise ship!  With Royal Caribbean it’s first come first serve, although there is the opportunity to reserve spots for private lessons, at an additional cost.  During the trip there’s varying degrees of lines and wait times but when we went Sabrina was able to try it out right away.  Braver than me!

Our kids like kids clubs.  We like that our kids like kids clubs.  But even if you’re not sure if your kids will like the kids club, it’s a smart idea to check them, called Ocean Adventure on Royal Caribbean and register your kids, in case your kids want to hang out there.  It’s a big space with tons of game and activities for your kids to do, so you can have a few hours to yourself!  There are three different rooms, one for kids 3-5, one for kids 6-8 and one for kids 9-11.  Pro-tip:  if you have a child age 11+ permission, he or she can sign him or herself out, AND your 11 year old can sign in your younger kids as well!  What people might not realize is you can give your kids some freedom on a cruise ship that you might not feel comfortable doing IRL, since where are they going to go?  (HOWEVER, put the fear of God into them that if they go anywhere near the railings you’ll stick them in the stateroom until you get back home).


Dinner.  One of our three favorite meals of the day

On our voyage aboard Liberty of the Seas we had dinner in the main dining room every evening.  Liberty of the Seas offered three times for the main dining room:  Early dining at 5:30pm, late dining at 8:30pm or my time dining, where you choose (hence the name).  We decided to do My Time dining at 7pm each night, and we had the same table and waiter each evening.  That worked best for our schedule, *although* the only draw back of dinner at 7pm is a lot of the shows would start at around 9pm, which kind of cut into my leisurely dinner, but there’s pros and cons to everything.  Our son called it “fancy dining” because we made him put on a button down shirt and pants every evening lol.  If you want to spend extra money on one of the specialty dining restaurants that’s great but for us the main dining room was perfect.  The kids knew they needed to be on their best behavior, but we had the same wonderful waiter every evening and he would bring the kids food out first, they would eat and then our oldest would take everyone to the kids club and the adults could enjoy a nice relaxing leisurely dinner.  No cooking, no cleaning, just great food, wonderful conversation and no stress!  Are you ready to book your next vacation?  If so where do you want to go?  Leave a message in the comments because I would love to hear all about it.  And if you’d like some help planning your next vacation click here I can help you with that too!

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Top Items You Must Pack in Your Carry On For a Cruise

Top Items You Must Pack in Your Carry On For a Cruise

So you’ve booked you’re stateroom, you’ve got a cruise coming up, so exciting!  But what do you pack?  Depending on how long is the voyage, many people will have a larger suitcase, a carry on, and a purse and/or backpack.  Staterooms on cruises are smaller than most hotels so it’s important to pack smart.  Packing a carry-on to bring on a cruise is different than packing a carry-on for an airplane.  For example, there’s no restrictions on liquids.  So it’s not an issue to bring things like your water bottle, sun-screen or toiletries. If I’ve flown into the city of wherever I’m going to cruise, I’ve definitely taken a few minutes to move things around from my larger suitcase to my carry-on, because I wasn’t allowed to bring on the plane (ie sunscreen) but could very well need on Embarkation Day.

Assuming you have both a larger suitcase and a carry-on, here’s a list of things you’ll want to keep in your carry-on and DO NOT leave behind in your larger suitcase.  Why does it matter?  Because good news:  when you’re at port, one of the first things you do is hand over most of your luggage to the porters, who will deliver directly to your stateroom.  Yay!  Less to lug around.  Bad news:  You might not see your luggage for hours.  So it’s really important to pack the things you might need while you’re waiting for the rest of your stuff.  Here’s a comprehensive list of what you’re going to:

Travel Documentation

✓ Passport – Make sure that your passport is up to date.

✓ Visa – If you need a visa for your cruise, make sure that you apply for it 3 to 6 months before your cruise.

✓ Driver’s License – If you plan on driving in certain destinations when the ship is docked, you may want to get yourself an international driver’s license.

✓ Auto Insurance Card – In case you want to rent a car on days when the ship is docked at the port.

✓ Cash – Always bring cash, especially for the little towns who don’t exactly take credit card.

Pro Tip: For safety, always keep a physical (print out) and virtual copy (screenshots on your phone) of your travel documents and identification. You can download any of these apps to scan your documents. You can also send them to yourself as an email attachment.

Important Documents

✓ Tickets – The night before your cruise, make sure that you have your tickets secured inside your carry-on bag.

✓ Travel Insurance – If you’re unsure whether you should get travel insurance, check out why you absolutely should.

✓ Medical Insurance – It’s important to note that your travel insurance and medical insurance are quite different. Before your cruise, check with your provider what your policy covers.

✓ Medical History – If you have any special or chronic conditions, make sure to let the cruise manager / director know about it prior to your trip. Also, prepare a detailed copy of your medical history, including instructions (e.g. where your medication is located, what medication you take, allergies, etc.) should an emergency occur.

✓ Emergency Contacts – Include phone numbers, emails, and mobile messenger profiles.

Pro Tip:You can make individual travel document kits – especially if you’re traveling in a big group – using ziplock bags. Label each one before storing them inside your tote or backpack.

Technology

✓ Mobile Phone – For most people this is a no-brainer but hey, you’ve got a lot to remember.  use this as a checklist and make sure your phone is where it should be. Load your smartphone with offline maps of your excursions so you don’t have any excuse for not exploring!

✓ Camera + Charger – A waterproof camera if you can budget for it is recommended! Don’t forget to pack extra batteries and memory cards.

✓ Table/Ipad/Kindle- Before the cruise, download some movies / series from Netflix for offline viewing. Don’t forget to download while still on WiFi!  WiFi on cruises is sometimes…not the best.  Download at home so you have some content to watch without interruption from slow connection speeds. Don’t forget to download some e-books to read while you’re on the ship (or for less techy, head to the library to check out books made of actual paper!).

✓ Chargers – Use velcro cable ties or twist ties to keep your cables organized. You can also label each for quick access.

✓ Cruise approved Power strip bar- Since your cruise ship stateroom will likely have only 2 electric plugs, a power strip can be very practical. However, it is against cruise line policies to bring a surge-protected power strip (and will confiscate), so you need to be very careful to only buy one this “cruise approved”.  Look for USB chargers, especially if most of your devices are charged with a USB cord.  This also lessons the adaptors you need to bring on your trip.

✓ Portable Charger –  So you can keep charging your devices offboard!

✓ Waterproof Watch – Opt for a cheap, waterproof watch and remember to set it on your ship’s time.  This the time you’ll need to keep track of while you’ll on or off the ship.

✓ Headphones – If you feel extra nice to who you are traveling with, bring a headphone splitter so you can share one device.

Must Haves

✓ Wallet – Keep some pocket money in your wallet for you to use in case of an emergency (meaning if you get hungry and need some snacks, or for a real emergency).

✓ Sunglasses and/or reading glasses  – Keep them in their own storage, so they don’t get scratched

✓ Prescription Medication – Keep them in their original containers. Less questions will be asked when going through security.

✓ First Aid Kit – This is especially helpful when traveling with kids.

✓ Toiletries – pack travel size (and TSA Approved) toiletries like toothbrush, toothpaste, moisturizer, contact lens solution, etc. Also helpful:  need sunblock, aloe gel, lip balm and hand sanitizer.

✓ Change of Clothes – You don’t have to bring an entire outfit.  Pack clothes made from lighter, wrinkle-free fabrics like jersey or linen. I always recommend to bring a bathing suit and flip flops, in case you want to hit the pool before your luggage arrives (or arrives late).

✓ Outerwear – Depending on the season you’re traveling, you might want to bring a light cardigan or jacket with you. You can tie bulkier items like outerwear around your waist (or wear on the plane when it gets cold), so it doesn’t take up space in you carry-on.

✓ Kids Entertainment Kit – If you’re going to be stuck at the airport for a period of time or have nothing on your schedule yet after boarding, pack a backpack with books, art materials, puzzles and their favorite toys to keep them entertained.

Extra Stuff to Pack with Kids

✓ Diapers & wipes – obviously if you have kids in diapers, this is a no-brainer.  Pack enough for the  trip and then some, just in case.

✓ Sippy cups – You pack your water bottle, make sure to pack theirs too!

✓ Kids Snacks – I still bring some of my kids favorite tried and true snacks, even when on a cruise and we’re surrounded by food.  It never hurts to have some of their favorite pre-packaged granola bars, fruit snacks, trail mix and the like.  Especially for when you’re off the cruise ship and at port.  I will admit that when you’re on the ship when we’re by the pool  their “snack” is more often than not the soft serve ice cream dispenser.  But since we’re on vacation it doesn’t really count, right???

 

Miscellaneous

✓ Wine and/or Soda? – Some cruise lines allow you to bring one or two bottles of wine, and up to a certain amount of cans of soda in your carry-on.  If you are trying to stay in budget this is a great way to do so!  I do not think there is anything wrong with bringing a can of soda to the dining room if you just one Diet Coke with dinner, vs paying up the nose for the drink package.  Now a lot of people do opt for the drink package and that’s fine.  But for others if you want to save yourself some money to spend on other things like gratuity or excursions, check out your cruise line’s policy on bringing drinks onboard the ship. 

Bonus – What you CAN’T bring on a cruise

There are a couple of things that many new cruisers don’t realize are absolute no-no’s on a cruise. Don’t bring these.

1. Iron or steamer – This is a fire hazard and you can’t bring this on your cruise, not in your carry on and not in your luggage.

2. Household power strip bar – Since there are not a lot of electric outlets in the cruise cabin, many cruisers have heard that it’s a great idea to bring a power bar. It is, but you must only bring one that is cruise-approved.

So there’s our list!  Is there anything we’re missing, or what do you make sure put in your carry-on that is your must have?  Leave a message in the comments below because I would love to hear all about it.  And if you’d like some help planning your next vacation click here because I would love help make your vacation dreams a reality!

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What’s Included In Your Royal Caribbean Cruise Fare on Navigator of the Seas?

What’s Included In Your Royal Caribbean Cruise Fare on Navigator of the Seas?

If you are going on a Royal Caribbean cruise onboard Navigator of the seas, you might be wondering what parts of the cruise experience are included in the cruise fare that you paid.  After all, there is a lot of components to any cruise vacation and it’s good to know what’s included and what isn’t.

We think Royal Caribbean does include a lot of activities, food, entertainment and things to do in your cruise fare.  A cruise remains a really good vacation value, especially when you factor in meals and entertainment.  Over the years, Royal Caribbean has realized some of its guests prefer to add onto the core experience, and began offering more options to tack onto their vacation.  As a result, it may be a bit overwhelming for someone new to Royal Caribbean to know exactly what is included and what carries an additional cost.

If you have been hoping to find out what is included with your Royal Caribbean fare and what is extra, specifically for Navigator of the Seas this breakdown should help clear it all up.

Accommodations

Let’s start with something simple, where are you staying on your cruise.  Your cruise fare gets you a stateroom exclusively for you.  This means you have a room and private bathroom to use throughout the cruise.

Depending on which type of stateroom you book the exact size, amenities and layout of the room will vary.  But at the very least, you should know that your cruise fare assures you of a room just for you (and any friends or family you invited to stay with you).

Gratuities

Guests sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas (and most Royal Caribbean’s ships) have two choices when it comes to gratuities to the dining room wait staff and stateroom attendants that provide services to them.  They may elect to pre-pay gratuities prior to the cruise, or have gratuities automatically charged on a daily basis to the SeaPass account.

As of January 2, 2018, guests will pay a $14.50 per guest per day service charge on a daily basis for guests in Junior Suites and below, or $17.50 USD per person, per day for guests in Grand Suites and above, applied to each guest’s SeaPass account on a daily basis, unless pre-paid prior to the start of your cruise.

Purchases and services rendered onboard a Royal Caribbean ship will have gratuities added at the time of purchase.  If you buy a drink, get a massage at the spa, eat at a specialty restaurant, etc, you will be charged an 18% gratuity automatically.  Your receipt will display the cost breakdown.  ***NOTE*** Do not skimp on tipping the staff!  They work extremely hard and this is where they make most of their income.   Gratuities are a part of cruising and your staff will show how hard they work for you by making so many moment of your trip that much more special with their amazing service, done with a smile.

Drink packages and specialty dining packages will be charged an automatic gratuity upon purchase of the package, which means no additional gratuity is required when taking advantage of the package benefits (i.e. ordering a drink at the bar with a drink package).  Some people forget this and add essentially a tip on top of a tip.  Not required! (although if you want to do so, go for it)

In addition to the gratuities listed earlier, there are opportunities to give crew members an additional tip for excellent service.  Even crew members who receive an automatic gratuity can receive additional gratuities if you feel it is warranted.  I find the PPG (Pre-paid gratuities) to be fair, and often I will pre-pay so I have one less thing to deal with at the end of my trip.

Meals & Snacks

Main Dining Room, Navigator of the Seas

All Royal Caribbean cruise fares include most meals and snacks onboard your ship, and any private destination you visit (such as Labadee or CocoCay).  This means there will be ample opportunity to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in-between without additional cost.

While on Navigator of the Seas, your cruise fare includes:

  • Main dining room – With sweeping, multi-level ambiance, world-class cuisine, and extraordinary personal service, the main dining room serves exceptional, multi-course meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day.
  • Windjammer buffet – Enjoy an assortment of global cuisines and American favorites at this casual dining destination with spectacular views and a comfortable atmosphere that welcomes guests for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Cafe Promenade – Located in the multi-level Royal Promenade at the heart of the ship – and the best spot for people watching – Cafe Promenade serves coffee, snacks pastries and sandwiches around the clock.  Open 24 hours a day, it’s perfect for satisfying your late night cravings.
  • El Loco Fresh – Stop into El Loco FreshSM to satisfy your craving for fresh-made Mexican favorites, like burritos, tacos and salsas. ]
  • There are 2 soft serve ice cream machines. One is located against a wall in the Windjammer and the other one is located on Deck 11 against a wall in the pool area.

Simply put, it is quite easy to have plenty to eat at any of the complimentary dining locations onboard.

You may find a few for-fee items on the main dining room menu, such as a filet or lobster.  Steak and lobster might be offered on other evenings of the cruise for no fee, but this is an option for those that want those dishes at other times.

Windjammer on Navigator of the Seas

Navigator of the Seas does offer in addition alternative specialty restaurants, where you can opt to pay extra for food/meal.  Most specialty restaurants have a simple cover charge that includes most of the food on the menu, although there are a couple of specialty restaurants that forgo the cover charge and simply charge you for what you order.

Here is a list of the specialty restaurants specifically for Navigator of the Seas:

  • Johnny Rockets Express – Step back in time to the 1950s, when jukeboxes were at every table and diner menus were packed with all-American favorites like burgers, fries, and shakes.
  • Chops Grille – Enjoy juicy steaks, fresh seafood, hearty side dishes, and sumptuous desserts in the elegant, classic Chicago atmosphere of Royal Caribbean’s popular signature steakhouse.
  • Izumi (a la carte) – Traditional Asian cuisine is artfully prepared and presented at Izumi. You’ll be wowed by the fresh ingredients, delicate flavors, and gorgeous plating of Izumi’s sushi, sashimi, ishi-yaki plates, and more.
  • Jamie’s Italian – Chef Jamie Oliver’s passion for Italian cooking and the Italian way of life drives a menu of rustic favorites, bursting with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
  • Hooked Seafood – For the freshest seafood and raw bar favorites, head to Hooked SeafoodSM — it’s a real taste of New England in a casual setting.
  • Playmakers – At Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, it’s all about winning — whether you’re watching your home team on screen, making your own legendary plays at the arcade, or refueling on your game-day favorites.
  • Chef’s Table – Dinner at Chef’s Table is both experiential and educational, as the Chef de Cuisine specially prepares and presents each course, while explaining its cooking techniques, ingredients and flavors. Then a sommelier pairs every course with wine chosen to enhance your enjoyment of the dish.
  • Starbucks – Being at sea doesn’t mean you have to give up your daily half-caff Coconut Milk Macchiato. Your Salted Caramel Mocha Frappucino® is here, too. And achieve Teavana® whenever the mood emerges. From drinks to pastry, you can enjoy your Starbucks®; favorites on select ships. A la carte pricing.
  • Ben & Jerry’s – Treat yourself to a cone of Vermont’s Finest Ice Cream, or indulge in a smoothie, sundae, or shake for a special treat.

Specialty restaurants offer cuisine options not otherwise available onboard your ship, as well as an opportunity to indulge in meals that you may prefer to enjoy at your own pace.  In addition, the ambiance is usually enhanced at these locations and the prices charged are usually not exorbitant.  As stated earlier, you should look at specialty restaurants as a way to enhance or splurge on your cruise, as dining at the complimentary venues is quite satisfying.

Chops Grille onboard Navigator of the Seas

Drinks

Navigator of the Seas provides all its guests (and this is standard for all of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships) a few different drinks throughout the day that are included in your cruise fare.  These drinks are available at any time, and include:

  • tap water
  • milk
  • tea
  • coffee (regular and decaf)
  • lemonade
  • iced tea
  • flavored waters
  • juices (at breakfast and not fresh squeezed)
  • Hot chocolate (via instant packets)

These drinks are available throughout your cruise at a number of locations, so there will always be somewhere to get something to drink for free. And if you are wondering, it is very safe to drink the tap water onboard, as it is of high quality.

I’m more of a Diet Coke gal myself – what’s your favorite drink while cruising?

Alternatively, if you want alcohol, soda, juices, virgin cocktails and pretty much anything else not listed above, you can purchase them individually for an additional cost during the cruise.

  • soda
  • beer
  • wine
  • liquor
  • cocktails
  • premium coffee and tea, such as Starbucks
  • bottled water (still or sparkling)
  • fresh squeezed juice

For all of these drinks, you may purchase each drink individually or purchase a Royal Caribbean beverage package that will give you either a set allotment of beverages or unlimited access onboard to them.

Royal Caribbean does allow its guests to bring up to two brttles of wine per stateroom with them onboard a ship.  It must be brought onboard on embarkation day, and it is subject to a corkage fee if opened in a public venue.  Guests may also bring non-alcoholic beverages as carry-on items on boarding day. Non-alcoholic beverages may not exceed 12 standard (17 oz.) cans, bottles or cartons per stateroom. Milk and distilled water brought on for infant, medical, or dietary use are permitted.

Room service

Room service is available any time of the day or night – simply order from the room service menu located in your stateroom/suite (service charge of $7.95* applies). An 18% gratuity is additional and will automatically be added to your check.  Grand Suites and above do receive complimentary room service, however the 18% gratuity still applies.

Child programming and care

Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean program offers children between the ages of 3 and 17 years old, complimentary supervised programming during the day and part of the evening. From when Adventure Ocean opens until 10pm, there is no additional cost to use Adventure Ocean. From 10pm to 2am, Royal Caribbean offers an after hour ($7 per hour) option that has an hourly cost for parents that want to let kids stay a bit later.

While in Adventure Ocean, kids take part  in activities lead by the Adventure Ocean staff. There’s a lot for kids to do here and the programs specialize for each age group. It’s a mix of learning, play time and socializing.

Children between the ages of six months and 36 months old can participate in the Royal Babies and Royal Tots program. Most Royal Caribbean ships offer a nursery, where parents can drop children off throughout the day and evening. Use of the nursery comes at an hourly charge.

In addition to the Nursery, there is often a open play area set up during the day for parents to bring their young children to and play that has no additional cost. This is unsupervised play time, but does provide an opportunity every day for parents with toddlers to have space to crawl, play, and have some fun.

Activities and Shows

A vast majority of cruise activities are included with your cruise fare.  Your daily Cruise Compass will list a schedule of activities offered onboard, and most have no charge for them. These are the sort of activities you might expect to find on a cruise ship (as well as some that may surprise you).  Cooking demonstrations, pool games, movies, trivia, dance classes, and scavenger hunts are regularly offered on Royal Caribbean and have no additional charge.  On Navigator of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has amplified their pool deck, there’s the always popular FlowRider, outdoor movie nights, multiple water slides, culinary classes, wine tasting, ice skating and laser tag, and more!

There are some activities offered that have an additional fee, such as some fitness classes, bingo, casino tournaments (and pretty much anything in the casino), drink seminars, spa services and more.  In addition, Navigator of the Seas also offers To Dry For Blow Dry Bar, cupcake classes, and the all new Royal Escape Room!

 

The performances in the Royal Theater, are included in your cruise fare.  Likewise, ice shows, comedy shows, magic shows, live music, audience participation shows and more are included as well.  Even the Broadway shows on Royal Caribbean ships are included in your cruise fare.

There will be shows each evening, along with additional performances during the day on sea days.  Live music is a staple of Royal Caribbean’s entertainment and is offered throughout the day at multiple locations.

Signature activities and Games

Royal Caribbean has built a reputation for itself with some of the signature activities offered onboard.  Watch any Royal Caribbean cruise commercial, and inevitably you will see people tackling the FlowRider, rock climbing wall and more.

Here is a breakdown of Navigator of the Seas top activities and any additional costs.

  •  Flowrider surf simulator
    • No cost to use (first come, first served), although private and group lessons are available to book for an additional fee.
  • Rock climbing wall
    • No cost to use (first come, first served), although private and group lessons are available to book for an additional fee.
  • Mini golf
    • No cost to use
  • Waterslides (Riptide, The Perfect Storm and The Blaster)
    • No cost to use
  • Aqua parks (Amplified Pool Deck)
    • No cost to use
  • Sports Court/SeaPlex
    • Multi-purpose venues that offer basketball, tennis, volleyball, dodge ball, soccer and more.
    • No cost to use.
  • Ice Skating

     

    • No cost to use (tip:  get in line early to get your pass to ice skate, they go fast)
  • Laser Tag:  Battle for Planet Z
    • no cost to use
  • Royal Escape Room – The Observatorium
    • Reservations required, 12 and older, additional fee
  • Scuba Certification
    • Get certified while onboard, fee applies

Fitness and Spa

Every Royal Caribbean ship has a fitness center that offers cardio machines, weight lifting machines, weights and more for no additional cost.  There are also some (but not all) fitness classes included in your cruise fare, such as stretch and abs workouts.

Each Royal Caribbean ship has a jogging track, which is available to use throughout the day and at no additional cost.

The sports courts also offer complimentary use of the facilities, with organized games often held throughout the sailing.

The fitness center will offer fitness classes for an additional fee, such as spinning, yoga, Pilates and more. The fitness center also offers personalized training and other services for an additional fee.

The spa is nearly available exclusively at an additional cost.  Spa treatments, salon services and day passes all come with an additional cost.

Navigator of the Seas does have a a complimentary single sex sauna that can be found in the changing rooms of the fitness center on deck 11 of the ship.

Tours of the spa are available at any time during your cruise and have no additional cost or obligation.  In fact, these tours are a great way to learn about what the spa offers.

Pool and sun decks

Access to Royal Caribbean’s pools are included in your cruise fare, including the lounge chairs, hot tubs, water slides, aqua parks and more. The Solarium area has no additional cost, but is limited to adults only.

Some areas of the pool deck are reserved for suite guests only.  If you are a suite guest (Grand Suite and above), you will have complimentary access to these areas.   On Navigator of the Seas, there is a limited VIP lounge chair set-up near the pool Bar area between Deck 12, Foward (No chairs reservation, however).

Miscellaneous services

If not mentioned in the post, here are a few more services that are not included in the cruise fare

  • Gambling (Including Bingo)
  • Art Auction
  • Any purchases made in the gift shops onboard
  • Shore excursions
  • Photographs
  • Video Arcade
  • Medical Services
  • Internet Access
  • Transfers (Unless guest has purchased our air/sea package)
  • Laundry and Dry Cleaning Services
  • Ship to Shore Telephone calls

There’s truly so much to do on the ship that your biggest issue will be not having enough time to do everything!  And we haven’t even discussed Navigator’s ports of call, Nassau and Perfect Day at Coco Cay.  That will be for another blog post.  What is your favorite part about being on a cruise ship?  Comment below and let us know!

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Top 11 Excursions While Visiting Nassau

Top 11 Excursions While Visiting Nassau

From unwinding on gorgeous beaches and indulging in world-class food, to embarking on thrilling underwater adventures, there’s something for everyone in Nassau.

With more than 700 islands in The Bahamas, the capital of Nassau continues to be one of the country’s most popular vacation destinations thanks to its incredible shopping, dining and adventure.

Nassau offers guests a glimpse of the picture-perfect paradise that was once a pirate’s haven, including historical streets that bootleggers traveled, local cuisine that reflects Spanish, West African and British influences and crystal-clear waters where guests can swim with dolphins, stingrays and more.

I’ve mapped out an ideal eight hours in Nassau, narrowed down to the must-dos along with a healthy dose of powdery sand and Bahamian blue waters. Read on for how to make the most of your port day in this special place.

Known for dishes like Conch salad, local Bahamian cuisine combines the flavors of Spain, West Africa and Great Britain to create a culinary experience unlike anything you’ve ever tried.

Credit: The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation

If you’re a foodie:

Taste the Best of the Best of Graycliff

Time it takes: 1-hour excursion.

Combine a chocolate tasting and cigar-rolling demonstration with a museum visit at the renowned Graycliff property, an 18th-century mansion (built by a pirate!) turned hotel in the heart of Nassau. From learning about the chocolate factory’s fair trade and organic farming practices, to watching master torcedores (highly skilled and specifically trained cigar rollers) roll finely made cigars, this excursion encompasses the best of this famous hotel.

Tru Bahamian Food Tours

Time it takes:  3-hour excursion; wear walking shoes.

Eat like a local with this off the beaten path tasting tour that takes guests through Nassau’s vibrant downtown neighborhood. Try local delicacies like conch fritters and rum cake, while exploring the colorful streets of colonial Nassau and mingling with local chefs, artisans and business owners.

The Fish Fry at Arawak Cay

Time it takes: 25-minute walk or 10-minute taxi ride from the port.

Nassau’s famous Fish Fry isn’t just one restaurant, it’s a group of restaurants and bars serving up traditional, fresh Bahamian food, including the signature ingredient, conch. Try conch salad, conch fritters or stewed conch, and make sure to finish your meal with guava duff, a dough spread with guava, then rolled, steamed and served with a vanilla sauce.

John Watlings Distillery

Time it takes: 17-minute walk or 7-minute taxi ride from the port.

The distillery is located on the famed and hallowed grounds of the 1789 Buena Vista Estate in historic downtown, serving guests a taste of the “Spirit of The Bahamas,” handcrafted by Bahamians, using local ingredients and traditional English rum-making methods.

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and head to Pearl Island, a private beach getaway just 30 minutes from Nassau.

Credit: The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation

If you’re a beach bum:

Junkanoo Beach

Time it takes: 15-minute walk or 8-minute taxi ride from the port.

This free, public beach (with affordable lounge-chair and umbrella rentals) is an easy 15-minute walk from the cruise port, and offers a taste of the Bahamas’ famous blue waters and soft sand with a hint of local flavor. Both residents and visitors gather here to sip a few Bahama Mamas while enjoying their day under the sun.

Pearl Island Escape Day with Lunch

Time it takes: 5-hour excursion.

Just a short harbor cruise away from Nassau, guests can enjoy a beach escape, featuring shaded decks and white sand beaches, plus a range of aquatic activities, including kayaks, stand up paddleboards and beach and board games. Pro tip: pay attention on the harbor cruise to-and-from Pearl Island for fun facts about Nassau’s colonial architecture and culture.

Nassau’s crystal-clear waters make it an ideal destination for water sports, including snorkeling, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

Credit: The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation

If you’re a thrill-seeker: 

Atlantis Aquaventure

Time it takes: 5-hour excursion.

Truth time: You can’t talk about Nassau without talking about Atlantis, the unrivaled (and huge!) luxury resort and water park on Paradise Island. During a day at Atlantis, you can shoot down intense water slides—including one that goes straight through a shark tank—take a dip in 20 swimming areas, explore fascinating marine life exhibits and jet through the rapids river on an inner tube. Need a break? Pull up a chair on Atlantis’s private beach.

Adventure Yacht Turtle and Reef Snorkel

Time it takes: 3-hour excursion.

Travelers will take a scenic cruise of Nassau Harbor before grabbing a mask, snorkel, fins and vest to test the waters and snorkel with turtles. Afterwards, relax at the beach at Green Cay, a long narrow island known for its New England-style architecture.

Certified Scuba Dive

Time it takes: 5-hour excursion.

Nassau’s turquoise waters welcome certified scuba divers to take stock of the capital’s underwater adventure and enjoy a two-tank dive of the colorful reefs. Check out tropical fish, sea turtles and even reef sharks up close.

Fort Montagu is the oldest fort still standing on the island of New Providence, located at the eastern end of Nassau Harbour. The fort was originally built to defend against Spanish invaders in 1741.

Credit: The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation

If you’re a history buff:

Pirate Museum

Time it takes: 8-minute walk from the port.

Explore the seedier side of Bahamian history at the Pirates of Nassau Museum, where costumed staffers answer questions and pose for photos as you browse the exhibits and learn about the days when pirates ruled the Caribbean waters. Learn the Pirate’s Code of Conduct (including which offenses could get you “marooned”!) and see replicas of a pirate ship’s galley and mates cabin.

Nassau Highlights

 

Spend some time getting to know the history of the destination with a tour of the city’s landmarks, including Rawson and Parliament Squares, The Queen’s Staircase, Government House and more. Once acquainted, guests can use the remainder of the day to explore on their own and revisit the sights like the Queen’s Staircase, located in the Fort Fincastle Historic Complex and named in honor of Britain’s Queen Victoria.

Whatever adventure you choose, there’s no doubt you’ll fall in love with the views and the people of The Bahamas. Ready to start your adventure?  Let me know here.  What’s your idea of a perfect day in Nassau?  Tell us in the comments below!

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