It wasn’t so long ago that having an iPad on a cruise ship was innovative, but the latest thing to have now is a SkyPad. If anyone was going to do find a way to take you to the moon on a cruise ship, it was Royal Caribbean.
This incredible new feature is going to appear first on the UK’s favourite ship, Independence of the Seas which will shortly be undergoing a major multi-million pound refit. She will arrive in Southampton in May with new staterooms, waterslides, laser tag, a fish and chip shop, sports bar and much more.
Independence of the Seas will be fitted with the SkyPad virtual reality bungee trampoline
How Does It Work?
The SkyPad combines a bungee trampoline park with a virtual reality experience. Guests can choose to walk across moon craters and enjoy the feeling of zero gravity. They can compete in inter-galactic games or simply enjoy a top deck view of the ocean without wearing the headset.
There will be no charge to use the SkyPad initially, but this could change depending on popularity. Royal Caribbean have already started charging guests to use the North Star which is featured on the Quantum Class ships, which was complimentary at first.
Join Us Onboard
Why not try this for yourself on the 3 night sailing on 17th May calling at Cherbourg. Josh and I will be onboard and would love you to join us.
The current price for an OCEANVIEW cabin is just £359pp (it has increased by £10pp in the last few days and is likely to go up or sell out). Here is a link to the cruise on the Royal Caribbean International website BOOK NOW
Most travel agents will let their customers know when there are great deals to be had. Not me. I have great customers that find the deals and call me to book. They are so good at knowing a deal that when I see what the price is, I want to book it for myself! This was the case with the two-night taster cruise. Kat emailed me or messaged me on Facebook and said she wanted to book this cruise for her and her friend. When I checked the price I went into overdrive and held off her cabin and two cabins for a friend and I.
Fast forward to 19 May 2017 and we boarded the elegant Celebrity Eclipse. We were welcomed onboard with a glass of champagne.
As we walked towards the atrium to get our bearings, we spotted the speciality restaurant staff, taking reservations. I took the opportunity to get our dining times sorted as we were not able to get the times that worked with the nursery online.
With that done, we headed for the pool deck.
The dancing fountain display was beautiful and had a very calming effect on me. We found a nice little spot to set up camp and distracted Josh with an extra large chocolate chip cookie, while we flagged down a poolside waiter.
After a few glasses of Prosecco (all included in the drinks package), and the mandatory dip in the pool, followed swiftly by a warm up in the hot tub, we headed back to our rooms to prepare for the compulsory muster drill.
Celebrity Cruises have adopted a different approach to the muster drill, which caused some controversy between passengers. It was presented as a kind of James Bond spoof, where one of the agents was on a mission and in order to complete it, they were put through a series of emergency procedures. Personally, I thought this was a refreshing change to the usual safety video.
We took a stroll to the Sunset Bar at the aft of the ship for spillway, passing the stunning lawn club. If you ever cruise with Celebrity, you really must do this, it was absolutely breathtaking. People were sitting on blankets on the lawn and chatting and taking in the view. The glass balcony means you can sit on the grass on what feels like the edge of the ship and look straight down to the water as you start to move away from the dock. Cafe del Mar style upbeat jazz tunes play through speakers located around the lawn, and there is a kind of cool, sophisticated, buzz in the air. The diversity of people was refreshing and ranged from my 3 year old running around on the lawn, to romantic couples of all ages. There was a group of same sex couples chilling out together and ladies letting their hair down for a well deserved weekend away. Some of which had never cruised before, and others who were almost part of the furniture.
After sailaway, I dropped Josh off at the X-Club and excitedly headed to one of Celebrity’s speciality restaurant I have always wanted to try, Qsine.
Trying the disco shrimp in Qsine
I think the Celebrity Cruises trainer, Leon Hand, aptly describes the experience as Heston Blumenthal meets Willy Wonka. That’s probably as close as you can get to an insight into this crazy, fun, delicious, quirky experience.
Sushi Lollopops in Qsine onboard Celebrity Eclipse
We docked in Le Havre but I decided I would rather stay onboard and enjoy the facilities on the ship. So did most others and the Solarium was quite full. I didn’t mind it too much until a lady opposite me decided to FaceTime someone, only they didn’t answer the first three times she called them. I politely GLARED at her when she first started calling, but I think that just made her more insistent that she would proceed with the call.
That is the one downside of a taster cruise. You do get a higher proportion of inconsiderate passengers. I don’t know why that is, but it’s just the way it is. Now one of the big benefits of a taster cruise, means you can book your next cruise whilst onboard and get a lower deposit, extra on board credit and cheaper prices (because you are booking earlier). We booked balcony cabins for a 10 night Canary Island Cruise in October. It cost us around £1300pp. I checked the prices yesterday and although the cruise is almost sold out, what balconies are left are starting at £1900pp. So there is a good booking tip for you. Make sure you put it in the name of your travel agent who should be able to give you a loyalty discount for booking with them.
So, after wandering around the ship and bumping into some familiar faces, we found the lawn club was once again the place to be. It was tranquil and spacious. The grass has a surprisingly calming effect on people for some reason. The pool area with the hot tub was more of a party atmosphere, but the lawn club was a real retreat from it all. We bumped into my friend and customer Kat, and her friend, and sat on the grass having a good old chat. It threatened to rain for a moment, but fortunately it passed.
That evening we a meal in Murano. Known for its fine dining. We opted for the wine pairing menu which was magnificent. The food, the staff, the service and the ambience were all exceptional. We raised a glass to the next cruise and enjoyed the rest of our evening.
Scallop Wellington was an excellent starter.
The after dinner plan was to visit the Martini Bar where we knew other people onboard would be. After bumping into a couple of familiar faces, Captain Greybeard and Jo Rzymowska, we headed to the shops to spend our remaining on board credit. With cap in hand and a bag of goodies we were still left with some change. So we payed what was supposed to be a quick visit to the Roulette table. It seemed it was my lucky night, not because I was stood next to an extremely inebriated ex-colleague, but because I kept winning. Eventually we had to go because the kids club was closing. It was 1am!!
So it was no Martini bar for us on this occasion, but a great couple of days spend onboard a stunning ship and two (and a half) very excited people to be hopping back on board for 10 days in October.
I woke up at 4 am and just could not get back to sleep. I was ridiculously excited to be spending Christmas with the kids onboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. Although I was aiming to get to the port early, travelling as a single parent with a toddler, a teenager, four suitcases, a pushchair, a changing bag and a handbag with travel documents, it put best-laid plans to rest.
We had to drop the rental car off at Fort Lauderdale airport and get a shuttle to the port. But first, I needed to stock up on nappies, wipes, hairspray, pencil sharpener and other random items. We eventually arrived at the car drop off point only to remember I was supposed to have refuelled the car. So off we went again in search of a gas station. Note to self – Bring another adult with me next time I travel!
A Moment In My Life
There are moments in your life that you will NEVER forget. Trying to convey the emotion I felt as I stepped onto the Allure of the Seas Royal Promenade is making me well up now.
The reason this was such I moment for me is that three years before our cruise, I had decided to leave the comforts of my Royal Caribbean family to become a travel agent franchisee specialising in cruising. That was shortly followed by some personal difficulties which left me in an unenviable financial situation.
Following the arrival of my son Joshua in 2013, the closure of the Royal Caribbean call centre in the UK and a strong and healthy cruise business, I was now able to pat myself on the back for surviving and being able to get myself and my two children onboard the largest cruise ship in the world. Some achievement even if I say so myself, and to top it all off, it was Christmas.
Royal Promenade ready for Christmas
A Lovely Suprise
In our stateroom, was a lovely welcome bottle of bubbly and fruit plate from Dominic Paul, SVP Royal Caribbean International. Gestures like this make you feel special. The staff onboard the Allure of the Seas were so genuinely friendly and caring that I felt relaxed and at home.
I unpacked whilst Joshua tried taking everything out of the minibar and kept trying to call people on our room phone. Once that was done and I’d signed up for the drinks package and the wifi package and changed our dining venue from Silk to the Grande (because I adore the decor in there including the chairs).
Royal Babies and Tots
Joshua went to the nursery for a couple of hours so that I could visit the salon. After that, we were all ready for dinner.
The Grande Restaurant
Allure of the Seas still has the main restaurant but the set time dining is on deck 4, The Grand and deck 5, Silk. For people who are after flexible dining, the My Time option takes place on deck 3 in the American Icon Grill. The only difference between the restaurants is the decor, otherwise, you are still dining in a three-storey dining room as before.
Is it worth paying extra for a balcony? Most definitely, but if you are on a budget, an interior or oceanview stateroom is usually the same size, it just means you have to get yourself out of your room to experience the views, which is not a bad thing. Having said that, if you time it right you can get a balcony for not a lot more and some cruise lines offer free balcony upgrades. Speak to your cruise specialist for details.
Balcony view in Nassau Bahamas
I decided that it was more beneficial for us to stay on board the Allure of the Seas because we only had 7 days to explore the ship and already we were on day two.
Tips for Parents
First I needed a coffee, but I knew Joshua wouldn’t sit down quietly while I enjoyed my first one of the day. I walked onto the Boardwalk as I knew it was an area that Joshua could safely run around in without me having to keep stopping him from touching things. There is a Donut Shop on Allure of the Seas, where you can help yourself to coffee in ‘to-go’ cups so it was perfect. I found a couple of other parents with their children who were doing the same thing, so I had company while I drank my coffee, and the kids made new friends.
Play area on the Boardwalk
I thought that choosing the Windjammer (self-service buffet) would be the best choice for us, with its wide range of foods to choose from. However, walking with a pushchair and trying to plate up some food is pretty tricky especially without getting in everyone’s way. I tried giving Josh a yoghurt and going off to get more food, but I just couldn’t be sure he would stay put. A staff member came up to us and asked if I wanted any tea or coffee. She brought me a coffee and offered to sit with Joshua while I got myself some breakfast. It was a relief to be able to get something, but I could see that I would have to rethink this for the rest of the cruise.
Breakfast whilst docked in Nassau next to Regal Princess
Lucy and I had booked a seaweed soak treatment which promised to help with all sorts of things including detox, restoring alkaline and helping to remove cellulite. We thought we would give it a try, so I dropped Joshua off at the nursery and we went off to the Spa.
When you go to the Vitality Spa onboard the Allure of the Seas, you step into a completely different zone to the rest of the ship. It is tranquil and the sights, sounds and smells just make you instantly relax. The staff were lovely and showed us to the relaxation lounge.
The Relaxation Lounge in the Vitality Spa
We waited there for a few minutes until we were shown to the treatment room and told how to change the temperature and water levels if necessary.
After a lovely hour spent catching up on girl talk and hopefully doing some good to our bodies, Lucy and I went to the thermal suite to relax on the heated beds. I needed to get back to the nursery to pick Joshua up, so all too soon our spa visit was over and it was time to be Mummy again.
At the nursery, Joshua had enjoyed himself, and having a giant-sized piano to walk over, meant it took longer than planned to leave the Adventure Ocean area. We went to the Windjammer to grab a bit of lunch, then met Lucy by the pool in the H2O zone.
Swimming For Babies In Nappies (Diapers)
Joshua and I played in the baby splash zone for a little while which is for children in swim nappies. There are restrictions on how much chlorine can be used on cruise ships, which is why they do not allow children in swim nappies in the main pools. Many Royal Caribbean ships have a dedicated splash zone for these children which is fantastic for families, otherwise, someone would have to sit with the child while everyone else enjoyed the water. Although Royal Caribbean has introduced these facilities to their newest ships like Allure of the Seas, they are not common on other cruise lines so it is best to check before you book if you are looking for one.
Captain and Officers address the guests
That evening was our first formal night and the Allure of the Seas Captain and Officers introduced themselves from an elevated platform on the Royal Promenade. Complimentary champagne was being handed out and there was a festive atmosphere.
Lucy and Joshua in the Grande on our first formal night
After dinner, Lucy went off to meet her new teen friends and Josh and I had a little stroll on the Boardwalk which, at night, looks stunning.
The Carousel on the Boardwalk
Our towel elephant looking very cool
A Day At Sea
So after my experience of trying to enjoy a lovely breakfast with a toddler in the self-service restaurant, I thought I would try the main dining room. That way all I had to do was keep an eye on Joshua and the breakfast would be brought to us. It was a bit of a challenge, but the staff were really friendly and helpful and not only made me feel welcome, but they also interacted with Joshua as well. I was thrilled to see my favourite breakfast of Eggs Benedict was on the menu, so I didn’t hesitate to order it….. every day for the rest of our cruise!
Breakfast in American Icon Grill
There is a hot breakfast menu, but you can also get pastries, cereal, fruit, juice, tea and coffee.
Eggs Benedict – my favourite
First thing on the agenda for the day was a welcome back party for Royal Caribbean’s guests who are members of the Crown and Anchor Society. This was held on the Boardwalk and we were greeted by a selection of cocktails, champagne and mimosas.
Welcome back party on the Boardwalk for loyalty members
The Allure of the Seas Captain and Cruise Director
I got caught out taking a sneaky picture of the officers
Then it was a quick visit to the nursery to drop Joshua off before attending another little reception in one of the many music venues onboard Allure of the Seas, Jazz on 4. Aptly named due to the fact they play Jazz and it’s located on deck 4. I met the lovely Marina Baklarova, Hotel Administrative Assistant who made me feel extremely welcome and told me I could contact her if I needed anything. When you are travelling as the only adult, it is very reassuring to know you have someone like Marina to call on if you need any help with anything.
Jazz on 4 VIP reception
After collecting Joshua from the nursery, who seemed to be having the time of his life there, we went for lunch and after which I pushed him around the vast areas of the ship until he fell asleep. This allowed me to upload some videos and photos and update my Allure of the Seas blog. The wifi technology on this ship is amazing and the connection was so instant it was just like being at home. For a cruise ship, that is hard to achieve in port, let alone on a day at sea.
There is a daily cruise compass which is like a daily paper, placed in your room. This tells you all the activities that are going on during the day and evening onboard, as well as locations and opening times of various restaurants and sports facilities. I had seen there was a family disco in Dazzles from 7 – 8, which fitted in perfectly with our dinner sitting of 8.30. I planned to wear Joshua out at the disco so that he would sit quietly in the restaurant. On the way to the disco we walked along the Royal Promenade and a gorgeous Gingerbread village had appeared. I couldn’t linger as Joshua was trying to grab at it, so I took a quick blurry photo and rushed off to Dazzles.
Gingerbread village on the Royal Promenade
There was a great atmosphere in the family disco and they were playing various games. I enjoyed a pre-dinner gin and tonic at the bar, while Joshua danced his socks off with the other children.
Family disco in Dazzles
Joshua worked up an appetite after all that dancing and tucked into a lovely chicken dinner.
A great dinner for Joshua in the Grande
We ordered room service which meant I could enjoy a coffee and get ready, while Joshua picked his way through the fruit, cereal and pastries.
I wanted to get out on the deck and enjoy the view as soon as possible. So we walked up to the top deck via the beautifully decorated Royal Promenade.
Festive Royal Promenade
There was plenty of time for a stroll around the ship before we docked in St Thomas.
Would you Zip Line across the middle of the ship?
As I had read about Magens Bay being one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. This made it an absolute must for me to get off the ship to see it for myself.
Allure of the Seas docked in St Thomas
Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Docked in St Thomas
The Boardwalk and Aqua Theatre in all it’s glory
Our lovely waitress, Mitzi had this waiting for us at our dinner table.
It was a dream come true, to be on a ship in the Caribbean at Christmas
A friend told me there was a silver dog on the ship and with some hints, we found it.
After 4 days I realised I had not yet walked through Central Park. I was starting to realise that 7 days simply wasn’t going to be long enough. So off I went to take a walk and some photos and videos.
The loyal Royal cruisers’ favourite speciality restaurant Chops Grille
Another place I realised I hadn’t visited so far, was the Boardwalk Dog House. I love hot dogs, and this place offers a whole range of different types. The thought of having a hot dog and a beer for lunch on Christmas Eve made me smile. I headed down to the Boardwalk.
After a bite to eat it was time to soak up the sun.
After lunch, the family got together for some fun in the sun
Well a sleep more like
With a nice bit of tanning done, we got ready for our Christmas Evening. It was a big one for the teens as they were having a party. I had booked Joshua into the nursery so that I could relax and enjoy a nice meal.
Joshua and I went to the Windjammer for some dinner. I kicked off my Christmas Eve celebrations with and a glass of Prosecco. Keeping in the spirit of things you are least likely to do on Christmas Eve (after the hot dog and beer lunch), we headed to the Boardwalk for a ride on the Carousel. This is when it hit me what we were doing and how amazing it was. Once I’d signed Joshua into the nursery I went off to enjoy a three-course meal in the main restaurant.
I started with a crab claw salad
Followed by lobster
My waiter Harley, suggested a glass of Baileys, which went down perfectly with dessert
After collecting Joshua from the nursery, we walked along the Royal Promenade. It looked extra festive with green and red ceiling lights.
It was the best present I could have given myself. To be waking up on the Allure of the Seas in the Caribbean. What could be the further from being in our pj’s unwrapping presents on a cold and dark Christmas morning? Breakfast with the Dreamworks Characters of course!
The Dreamworks Breakfast Menu
Alex, King Julien and Gloria came along to join us.
Santa’s elves looked a lot like the nursery staff, and they were magic because they knew Joshua’s name.
In the Caribbean, Santa prefers to wear his shorts and shades and meet the children in person. It’s only in cold countries that he uses a chimney when everyone is asleep.
My Christmas present from Royal Caribbean, I was thrilled.
Trying something different in the Champagne and Martini Bar, an appletini. As expected, I didn’t get it to my table without spilling it.
Harley recommended the Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay which was perfect.
Turkey dinner for Christmas, even in the Caribbean.
During dinner, the restaurant staff paraded around the restaurant singing Jingle Bells. This was my favourite part as our Head Waiter Oscar, and main waitress, Mitzi, walked past us singing and smiling. Oscar is in the front. We loved him.
After dinner, I took a walk around the ship. As I admired the beautiful surrounded I thought about what I should do next.
View of Central Park from deck 15.
I decided the most unusual thing I could do was to go and sit in the hot tub. Most guests were travelling with large families and spending time with them, so I had it all to myself. It was heavenly.
By day 7 of your cruise, you have learned where everything is. You have less than 24 hours on the ship and want to get as much in (your stomach) as possible. So Joshua and I started with doughnuts on the boardwalk. I had mine with a coffee and Joshua with his milk. I had the key lime pie ring doughnut and Joshua had the chocolate one. They were heavenly.
Once that had gone down, we headed for American Icon Grill which is where they were serving breakfast. I had my last eggs benedict of the cruise.
It was a glorious day, so I spent a couple of hours topping up my tan.
Then it was time for our Bridge Tour
The full Allure of the Seas Bridge Tour review can be found here
A lovely surprise gift waiting for me in my room.
A lovely memento from the nursery
We couldn’t miss our last chance to see our favourite Dreamworks characters. Luckily for us, Shrek and Princess Fiona stopped right in front of us.
The final sunset from our balcony on the Allure of the Seas. A rainbow peaks through the clouds to promise that we will return.
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