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I want to go back!

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We had an absolute BLAST abroad the Celebrity Summit as part of the Cabot Celebrity cruise (each year, Cabot Coop takes about 45 volunteers on a cruise as a ‘thank you’ – I went because of my work with Operation Beautiful and as the cruise’s Social Media Correspondent).  I must admit that, prior to this trip, both the Husband and I really had our doubts about the whole concept of cruising in general.  When I heard about cruises, I thought, “Why would I want to be stuck on a boat?! What if I got bored and couldn’t escape? And what if the food was bad?”  I am happy to report that all of my fears about cruising were completely unfounded, and we both LOVED the experience of cruising.

 

Cruising is easy and carefree.  There is no planning involved, save for choosing excursions at the port, if that’s what you want to do. The food was great.  The entertainment was endless.  Our cruise was seven days long, and I barely scratched the surface of the ship!

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Because we had Henry with us, Celebrity placed in a handicapped room.  I’m assuming that Celebrity placed us in the handicapped room because no one needed the room and because it was at the end of the hallway and next to the elevator, thus minimizing the impact of a child on the rest of the passengers.  We didn’t mind our elevator location at all (I never heard a peep from other people in the  hallway), and our room was spacious.

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Sorry for the mess. Smile 

 

We also had a balcony, which was AWESOME.  We spent a lot of time on the balcony when Henry was sleeping.

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As mentioned, there was so much to do on board!  There was a theatre with nightly shows. They had a dance team, a comedian, a professional juggler, and singers.  There was a casino (where we lost a LOT of money – ugh!), a library, a wonderful spa (I got an insanely indulgent pedicure), steam rooms and a sauna, an art gallery, a shopping center, many pools and hot tubs, a nightclub, and lots of restaurants. There was a constant stream of shows, classes (like cooking lessons), trivia games, and flash sales.

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The food was yummy, too!  There was a ton of variety and nothing tasted mass-produced (although it all surely was!).  The food was fresh and well-cooked.  There were healthy and not-so-healthy-but-totally-delicious options, too.  Food was a big worry of mine, since I’m gluten-free and vegetarian.  But everything was clearly labeled.  The dinner menu even had special symbols next to the dishes indicating if the idea was vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, or with no added sugar.  There was always a gluten-free and vegetarian entrée (except the last night), and there were lots of acceptable appetizers.

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In addition to the formal dining room, there was a cafeteria-style restaurant open all day long (even late at night for post-casino munchies).  The food was wonderful there, too.  But we opted for the (FREE!) room service for breakfast many mornings because it was easier with Henry.

 

There was also a few fine dining restaurants that cost extra.  It was a flat rate ($40 per person), and you could order as much as you wanted.

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There was every kind of food imaginable on board… Sushi and chocolate fountains galore!  The desserts were particularly out of control.  The cruise director made a joke about how people gain one pound for every day on the boat.  Free, delicious food… In endless quantities… It’s hard to say no!

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Speaking of gaining weight onboard, there was also a gym.  It was a nice one, too, with loads of cardio equipment, machine weights, and exercise classes like yoga and spin.  I did not use the gym very much (i.e. once).  Oh well.  Winking smile

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Just as a side note, I loved the look and feel of the Summit.  I took a bunch of photos of the chairs because they were all so pretty and unique.  Here are a few…

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Our cruise took us from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Bridgetown, Barbados; Castries, St. Lucia; St. Johns, Antigua; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and back to San Juan.  We only had one “at sea” day and every other day was at port.  My favorite thing about cruising was opening our window every morning and seeing the new port.

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Our favorite beaches were in Bridgetown and St. Thomas; we liked walking around St. Maarten the most.  In St. Thomas, we also went to a butterfly farm, and I snorkeled off the beach.   We did two excursions (golfing and a rainforest hike).   The excursion desk on board was SUPER helpful and knowledgeable about what excursions we could do with Henry.  And it was easy to go on the excursions – you just walked off the boat at 8 AM when it docked, and then there was someone waiting for you with a sign.  Peace of cake.

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I want to give a HUGE shout-out to the staff abroad the Summit.  I cannot say enough great things about the staff, from the waiters to the spa ladies to the room attendants.  Everyone was extremely nice and friendly – but not fake or over-the-top.  The staff was AMAZING with our son.  By the end of the trip, every staff member that we came in contact with knew Henry’s name.  They’d play games with him and bring him special treats.  I will never forget our stateroom attendant Dominic; he was so nice to Henry, who quickly learned how to say, “Good morning, Dominic!”  So cute.  Tips are built into your cruise costs, but we made sure to tip generously everywhere we went.

 

Henry was one of about five children under the age of five on board.  It’s not that Celebrity is anti-kid; it’s just more of an expensive, upscale line, so most people do not bring children.  As a result, child-friendly activities on board are limited.  Daycare is only for kids age three and up (no diapers allowed); there was also no pools that Henry could enter (my understanding is that on certain cruise lines, babies in diapers can go in designated pools because they are easily drained and refilled). They did have in-room babysitting, but we never used this service because my mother-in-law came with us.  You could borrow toys from the daycare, which was great because we didn’t have to pack a lot.  Again, the staff was amazing with Henry, which was appreciated so much.

 

Henry is a well-behaved but normal toddler, and we know his limitations, so we didn’t bring him into situations where he would impose on other guests.  He loved going to the cafeteria and hanging out with all the grandmas missin’ their babies back home.  Generally speaking, Henry blended into the cruise quite well and had a fabulous time.  I would probably choose a more child-friendly line in the future, just so Henry could go into the pools and daycare. But I have zero complaints about how Celebrity treated Henry.

 

As far as logistics go, here’s a list of things that I would really recommend you bring if you’re cruising with a toddler (beyond the basics):

 

Cups for pouring water and building sandcastles

A small blow-up pool if they can’t get in the adult pools (also nice to use on the balcony)

Laundry detergent so you can wash your own clothes in the bathroom sink (kids go through a lot of outfits!)

Two times as much sunscreen as you think you need

Snack cups (to fill with buffet food for later)

A hiking backpack

 

We brought an umbrella stroller but didn’t use it once.  Henry was in the hiking backpack all the time – he even napped in it!

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The backpack was awesome because it also carried a lot of our stuff, like toys, food, and towels.  I cannot say enough awesome things about our backpack (which was a consignment item).

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If you love to travel, I think cruising is a great way to travel with young children!  So much of the hard stuff is already organized for you, eliminating so much of the ‘work’ of finding places to eat and sleep.  It was great that this trip occurred when Henry was flexible with naps and bedtime – it made sightseeing a lot easier.  Henry had an absolute blast and traveled like a champ, and our family carved out some very special and unique memories.  <3 <3

 

We cannot wait to go on another cruise!

 

If you’ve cruised before, share your experiences in the comments section…  maybe you’ll help me find my next boat.  Smile

{ 43 comments }

 

Leave a Comment

  • Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health January 23, 2014, 1:44 pm

    I’ve never been on a cruise but you make me one to take one with Celebrity! I’m so happy Henry was there to experience it all with you :)

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  • Nikki January 23, 2014, 1:47 pm

    I’ve cruised on Royal Caribbean, very kid friendly, I loved that I didn’t have to deal with the logistics. I went ice-skating and surfing on a ship, there were diving shows, ice-skating shows, plays, a comedy show just to name a few. The gym was awesome although I didn’t get in there as much as I thought I would there was also a walking track but I did so much walking otherwise that I never used it. Deserts with every meal but I was so active it did not worry me at all. You cannot get bored on a cruise.

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  • Lana January 23, 2014, 2:03 pm

    Sounds great! Where did Henry sleep on the ship? In a pack and play?

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    • Caitlin January 23, 2014, 2:11 pm

      Yup!

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  • Diana Griffith January 23, 2014, 2:13 pm

    I’ve cruised on both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines. I loved both experiences. I’ve never been on Celebrity but like you said, they’re suppose to be more of a high end experience.

    I can’t speak to either of the child options on the cruise I was on, but I do have to say that I know there were children on the boat both times, but I never felt like the children were in my face. I think all cruise lines have a way to making sure that families with and with/out children can enjoy their experience. Cruising really is for everyone!

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  • Caitlin E January 23, 2014, 2:48 pm

    I’ve been on one cruise before when I was 13. It was a Carnival ship that left out of Miami and went to Grand Cayman and Jamaica before going back to Miami. Carnival is very kid friendly and I think you guys and Henry would like their ships. I’m taking my mom and my best friend on a cruise in May and after reading this post, I’m pretty sure we’re going to the same places you guys went, the only difference is that we’re on the Carnival ship Valor and you guys were on a Celebrity ship. We’re leaving out of San Juan, stopping at St.Thomas, a day at sea, then Barbados, St.Lucia, St.Kitt, St. Maarten, and back to San Juan. I’m even more excited for my trip now that I’ve seen some of your pictures and read about your experiences in these places! Eeeeee!!!

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  • Michelle January 23, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Sounds like a great cruise! Did you happen to meet Jon from Inner City Weightlifting? He was one of the volunteers that went on the trip. I am a counselor in Boston and Inner City Weightlifting is such an awesome program. They were recently featured on Chronicle (local news show) so I was SO happy to see that Jon was recognized for all the work he does in our community with some of our most at risk youth.

    Here’s a link to the piece from Chronicle in case you or any other readers are interested

    http://www.wcvb.com/chronicle/boston-strong-inner-city-weightlifting/-/12523032/23421596/-/lcpwjvz/-/index.html

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  • Vivian January 23, 2014, 3:16 pm

    Which hiking backpack did you use? It looks awesome!

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  • Keri @ Blue-Eyed Runner January 23, 2014, 3:31 pm

    I actually met my husband on a spring break cruise our senior year in college. We have been together for 8 years (married for a year and a half) and have 3 month old baby :) For our honeymoon last year we went to Hawaii and spent a week on one island then cruised for a second week to see the other islands. It was perfect!

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  • Jennifer January 23, 2014, 3:34 pm

    Aww I got engaged in St. Maarten back in 2009, I haven’t been back since, but am always happy to hear about other people’s travels there! Glad you enjoyed it!

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  • Karen January 23, 2014, 3:45 pm

    You are so lucky to not have hit some rough waters! I do think some ports are better than others to cruise out of in that regard. We hit a day and a half of really rocky seas coming back to the Baltimore port and it was AWFUL. I cannot imagine doing that with a child!!

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  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs January 23, 2014, 4:03 pm

    Great review! For some reason I’ve always felt sort of anti-cruise, even though I’ve never been on one — the slew of terrible cruise luck in the news this past year didn’t help! But it sounds like you had a wonderful time! I may have to reconsider :)

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  • K @ Finding a Skinnier me January 23, 2014, 4:05 pm

    I am booking my first cruise ever for my big 3-0 this year and your post makes me feel a lot better about it. I don’t have a toddler to travel with but I was nervous about the food and activities.

    By the way LOVE your bathing suit!

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  • Katie January 23, 2014, 4:24 pm

    I went on a Disney cruise as a babysitter (if you ever have the funds, I imagine the parents LOVED having me along), and I actually hated it. I’m sure there were some huge factors at play with the cruise that were specific to my experience– I’m not a big Disney fan, and I was working the whole time instead of just relaxing. But overall I found the entire experience really…gluttonous? The endless gorging, the environmental impact of a huge cruise ship, feeling like I was a sardine packed in with a bunch of other people… It all made me feel really guilty. My mom thinks I need to relax and let myself feel pampered. But I felt really crappy and sad the whole time I was on the cruise. Did you feel any of that at all?

    Maybe I would like a smaller, non-Disney ship.

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    • Grace January 24, 2014, 2:31 pm

      I also hated both cruises I went on! The first was a disney cruise when I was 13-14 and I think it was the crowds and being forced to interact with family I didn’t really like that left a sour taste in my mouth. It was a family reunion with about 30 family members.

      A couple years ago I went on a Carnival cruise for a wedding in the Bahamas. This time I loved the group I was with. However, the activities were super cheesy with a song and dance number by the staff at dinner. WTF? I just want to eat. It also felt ridiculously gllutonous as you mentioned. We ported at Turks & Caicos and the beach area for cruisers was so over the top and corporate. I rented a bike and rode around the island, but it just depressed me seeing the locals living in poverty and still trying to rebuild after multiple hurricanes and tropical storms.

      Reply
  • RunEatRepeat January 23, 2014, 5:02 pm

    I went on a boose cruise.
    that I call a boobs cruise.

    Reply
  • Army Amy January 23, 2014, 5:47 pm

    Waaaaay back when, my family took a cruise on The Big Red Boat. I don’t know if they still exist (it was ’96 and all), but it was perfect for families. I was 12 with brothers who were 14 and 7, and we had a blast. We still talk about how funny the bingo announcer was and how my goofy little brother ordered “the catch of the day” for dinner one night. It’s the stuff of family legend.

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  • Amber K January 23, 2014, 5:58 pm

    Oh man, I thought I’d never want to do the whole cruise thing, but it actually looks like a ton of fun! Especially knowing that gluten-free options were available. That’d be a huge concern of mine.

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  • Krista January 23, 2014, 7:15 pm

    I’ve been on quite a few cruises, the majority with Celebrity which I love! I’ve also been on Carnival which is definitely kid friendly! I’ve never been on Disney but I hear they do a fabulous job & the food is supposed to be the best! I think cruises get such a bad rap but I happen to love them! I always say don’t knock it til you try it!

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  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun January 23, 2014, 7:29 pm

    I have cruised before but I was in high school and it was a LONG LONG time ago! I want to go on one with my husband so badly , hopefully one of these years we will finally get an opportunity!

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  • Kelley January 23, 2014, 7:39 pm

    This was an awesome recap! What a great experience! Looked like a great boat!

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  • Stacy January 23, 2014, 7:47 pm

    My favorite cruise lines are (in order–that I’ve taken):
    Celebrity
    Princess
    Carnival

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  • Sara January 23, 2014, 8:20 pm

    Hey Caitlin,
    I was wondering if you could comment at all about hygeine/public health practices aboard the ship? After hearing all those gross stories about norovirus outbreaks etc. on (some cruise lines), which just seem to keep happening, it basically made me never want to try this experience…but I was wondering how vigilant some outfits are and whether you picked up on this at all?

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    • Caitlin January 24, 2014, 7:41 am

      There were SO many hand sanitizing stations all over the ship, and when you got off or on the ship, they made you wash your hands with gel. However, I still got sick – I woke up on Thursday and puked once and then I was fine. My MIL was not so lucky, but her virus hit when she got home. Luckily, Kristien and Henry escaped without illness! It definitely is an issue on ships just because there’s SO many people in a small space… I think they did their best, though.

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      • Sara January 24, 2014, 9:51 am

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this! PS:don’t comment often, but LOVE the blog.

        Reply
        • Caitlin January 24, 2014, 10:14 am

          Thank you so much for reading. I really appreciate it!

          Reply
  • Erica January 23, 2014, 8:30 pm

    I have been on a Holland America cruise before and it was great. It was over 10 years ago so I think I am due for another one!! You are so lucky! Did you have to work a lot since you were part of the staff? Did you get any behind the scenes views, (evem if it was workimg for Cabbot)? I need to apply for that job ;)

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    • Caitlin January 24, 2014, 7:40 am

      There was a good balance between work and play – I’ll be recapping the work parts soon! :)

      Reply
  • Amanda L January 23, 2014, 9:13 pm

    I absolutely love cruises! I have been on quite a few because I have a large extended family that loves to vacation together. When I was younger, Carnival was the best cruise line because it is extremely kid friendly. All of my siblings and cousins were under the age of 12 when we went on the Carnival cruises. However, the oldest grandchild is now 23 and the youngest is 3 weeks old (and there are MANY of us that fall in between). Obviously that is quite a big age span. The last cruise line we used was Royal Caribbean and I couldn’t recommend it more for large families or groups that have people of all ages. I do not recommend Norwegian cruise line for families. I found that cruise line to be geared toward adults. Cruises are by far my favorite vacations!

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  • Allison January 23, 2014, 10:28 pm

    I think a cruise on a family friendly ship would provide the best of both worlds! Also, I think the term is “accessible” not “handicapped.”

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  • Rachel January 23, 2014, 10:42 pm

    Wow! Sounds like you guys had a blast! Those beaches look sooo inviting…I get car sick riding in the back seat, so I’m thinking “cruising” is not for me :/ And I know how everyone says you can’t feel the boat move, but I’m not willing to risk spending all that money to find out!

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  • Cathy January 23, 2014, 11:45 pm

    Sounds like a great trip! We’ve always been nervous to try a cruise, but we might have to now! You made it sound just incredible!

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  • Haley January 24, 2014, 8:30 am

    My fiance’s family usually swears by Royal Caribbean and we’ve had great, great experiences with them. One of my biggest suggestions is that if you think you’re going to cruise semi-often, find a cruise line that you like (and it’s worth checking them out) and join the FREE frequent cruising club for that line. It’s free to join and you definitely get some perks as soon as you join. Plus, when you reach a certain number of nights and jump to higher levels, there are more perks like free happy hours and access to certain events/bars/etc. It’s free like I said, and who wouldn’t want to earn free happy hours? :)

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    • Haley January 24, 2014, 8:31 am

      And Royal Caribbean is super, super kid friendly!

      Reply
  • Katie D. January 24, 2014, 8:36 am

    My husband and I cruised on Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas at Christmas time, so there was a lot of kids and family friendly activities. We were obsessed with trivia and tried to make every trivia time. We also loved the “adult” entertainment in one of the lounges. Fun crowd games like Battle of the Sexes, Name that Tune and such. We loved ordering a cocktail and playing along with our fellow cruisers.

    My grandparents are practically “professional” cruisers and we went with them. They are RC Platinum Club Members, so we got to have some of their preferential treatment too :) But really, I think they just booked their 40th cruise – an 11 day cruise in April!! I know they don’t do excursions anymore, but they LOVE the quiet ship when everyone gets off and that is when they hit the pools and lay out.

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  • Laura@SneakersandSpatulas January 24, 2014, 9:27 am

    My husband and I went on an MSC (Italian line) Cruise a few years ago. We went for the most budget friendly. The ship ended up being mostly older retired people with very few young people so we felt kind of left out. Also, our trip had about 3 days at sea and the husband got sea sick so he was pretty miserable during the at sea days.

    When I was younger, my family went on a cruise together (I can’t remember the line) and it was awesome. We also loved the beaches in St. Thomas. That is one day I’ll never forget-our driver took us to a secluded beach and I played in crystal clear waters all day. It was by far my favorite day on the cruise!

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  • Kris January 24, 2014, 10:59 am

    We have been cruising for over 20 years. You definitely were on a more upscale cruise line, although there are many far more expensive. You won’t find as many kids on the more upscale cruise lines. Although lots of people rave about Carnival and Royal Caribbean, we stick to Princess and Celebrity (although we’ve had great cruises on Costa and Norwegian). I’m pretty surprised that you and your MIL got sick. After umpteen cruises, I’ve never been sick and DH has been sick only once. I’m pretty particular about washing my hands and touchings things (doors, rails). I think it’s much easier to get sick at the health club (I got the flu after my first spin class — def from the bike). And tipping — it isn’t automatically included (except on more expensive, upscale lines). Mostly it gets added to your shipboard account and you can decide not to tip or adjust the amount. There is a suggested amount. We usually go with the suggested amount and then add additional for great service. Your room was much roomier than standard. Normally you pay a big premium for more space. The biggest thing I would say is most people don’t realize how much they are going to pay for drinks, shore excursions, photos, videos, tips, etc. The shipboard account bill at the end of the cruise can be a shock unless you’re budget-minded the way we are. It’s a great way to vacation if you do your homework. Cruisecritic.com is a great place for lots of cruising info. Glad you enjoyed your cruise!

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  • Megan @ The Skinny-Life January 24, 2014, 1:13 pm

    I have never been on a cruise. Honestly, I’m a little claustrophobic so I’ve avoided taking one feeling I may feel trapped. After seeing your amazing pictures though, I want to go! It looks much more spacious than I had imagined.

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  • Katrina January 24, 2014, 1:18 pm

    DO NOT do Carnival! My husband and I were so sick of eating the same thing day after day (we’re vegetarian) and none of the food was good. I recommend a Disney Cruise on Royal Caribbean with Henry! Maybe when he’s a little older though!

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  • Rachael January 24, 2014, 5:54 pm

    Great review! I’m going on a cruise to St. Thomas and St. Martin later this year, so I’m excited that you had a great time there. I’ve been on Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian, Carnival, and Disney cruises and would recommend all of them with the exception of Carnival. That was the one bad cruise I’ve ever been on- terrible food, rude staff, and the ship didn’t seem clean or well taken care of. Disney may be pricey but it’s worth every penny!

    My #1 tip for anyone going on a cruise: use the showers in the fitness center/spa even if you didn’t work out there! They are usually MUCH larger than the shower in your room and some even have the spa products in there for you to try out like shampoo, face wash, lotions, etc. All of the ones I’ve used were very clean and I never had to wait to use one. This has saved me from many bruised elbows and waiting to take turns showering in the stateroom after a day on the beach.

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  • Lauren @ Peaks and Passports January 24, 2014, 10:57 pm

    The last cruise I took was on a SilverSeas ship from Istanbul through the Greek Isles and ending in Athens. SilverSeas isn’t kid friendly (I don’t even think they’re allowed on the boats) and it’s very pricey but it would be amazing for a big anniversary trip or sometime that you and the hubs want a special grown-up vacation. The ships are smaller, the service and food are phenomenal and it was the BEST trip I’ve ever taken. It’d be way out of my price range (my parents sponsored the trip) but I’ve heard they do last-minute specials and such. I highly recommend SilverSeas!

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  • Stephanie January 25, 2014, 6:03 pm

    We LOVE cruising! No kids yet, but we’ve met a bunch on our cruise travels, and it looks like they’re having an awesome time. Celebrity is my favorite line, too, so I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’ve been on the Summit, to Bermuda, but that was before they renovated. That ship looks great! We were most recently on the Celebrity Eclipse, it’s one of the Solstice-class ships. The Solstice-class ships all have lawns on the very top deck with real grass, it’s awesome. One night the ship hosted wine-cheese-and-live jazz under the stars on the lawn. Incredible. :)

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  • Mari January 28, 2014, 9:46 am

    I’ve heard that Disney cruises are incredibly kid friendly (makes sense!), even in relatively simple things like having a tub (rather than a shower) and a curtain to block off part of the room since kiddos tend to go to sleep much earlier than parents. We cruised on Carnival for our honeymoon about 3.5 years ago — to many of the same ports you did — and I would NOT recommend that cruise line. It was just “okay,” not awesome. The food was decent (but not amazing), everything overall was just satisfactory. It was very much like a frat house, with the cruise director being the frat president. It certainly wasn’t terrible and we’d cruise with them again if in a pinch, but I’ve heard that Celebrity and Princess are more “adult” cruises — less frat-like and a touch more sophistocated. I think we’ll do a Disney cruise someday with our toddler, but I hope to take a fancier adult cruise someday too!

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