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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