Hi guys, I hope you all had an awesome Spring Break. I am so lucky as a teacher I get a week off for Spring Break. This year we decided to take a cruise. The hubby and I had only been on one cruise before about 15 years ago, so I was ready for the adventure. A lot of people have been asking how it was and if we would go again, so I thought I would share a little post vacay recap and some helpful tips if you think you may want to plan a cruise.
We chose Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Sea. It is a new ship that has only been cruising for about a year. The ship is HUGE! I cannot even begin to describe it. It had water slides, regular slides, zip lines, a rock wall, pools, bars, ice skating and so much more! We didn’t even have time to do everything.
My first tip is to plan in advance. We booked our cruise about a year in advance. This gave us plenty of time to save money for our excursions and to plan the activities we wanted to do. Plus this ship books up fast. We also had time to research each port and plan our excursions. One suggestions I would make is to explore the ship more on the first day. We jam packed our first day and I think we should have explored more. Also if you have an opportunity to talk to people as they are getting off the ship do it. While we were waiting to board I talked to a few ladies who were coming off the ship and they gave me a lot of good suggestions and tips. Also make your show reservations early because they do book up pretty fast.
What To Wear
I totally over packed like I always do! I like to have a lot of options for what to wear. On this cruise we had 2 formal nights and the rest were casual. It was fun to get dressed up and fancy for the formal nights. Most people were dressed in something you would wear for a wedding, but I did see some people in elegant evening gowns and tuxedos. I stuck to simple dresses. The one thing that was hard was dressing my girls for these formal nights. We don’t have a lot of formal events we go to and my older daughter hates wearing dresses so that was difficult. For the formal nights she chose to wear a simple black dress and changed up her jewelry and shoes each night. No one ever questioned what we were wearing in the dining room on any night. For the rest of the cruise we were in our bathing suits, shorts and tank tops, sun dresses and cover ups. I did pack workout clothing for each day and I ended up running out of shorts to wear. I also packed a small amount of laundry detergent so I ended up hand washing my shorts in the sink.
Yes you can workout on a cruise! I worked out probably 5 out of the 7 days, plus before we left we made a pact that we would never take the elevator. We climbed a lot of stairs. We only took the elevator 2-3 times. On average we walked about 6-9 miles a day between walking the ship and taking the stairs. As for workouts I pretty much did simple quick workouts because I didn’t want to spend all morning in the gym. Our ship had a running track and some classes. Most of the classes like the spinning, yoga and TRX you had to pay extra and I didn’t want to pay. Most of my workouts were about 30-40 minutes. Here is a glimpse of what I did:
- Day 1: Off
- Day 2: 2.5 Mile Run Intervals (around the outdoor track) and weights
- Day 3: 2 Mile Run with Body Weight Strength Training (on the track)
- Day 4: Bike 15 Minutes and I took an Ab Class
- Day 5: Run 2 Miles and I took a Stretch Class
- Day 6: Off
- Day 7: Run 3 Miles and Upper Body Weights
The gym was pretty nice and not super packed, but I was up really early like usual. It was well equipped and I really liked the jogging track. You got to see the sunrise as you jogged if you timed it just right. The only complaint I had about the gym was that it smelled like cigarette smoke. It was right above the casino and boy could you smell it. That was not the greatest.
I realize that a lot of people go on cruises for the food. I would say that I am not that type of a person. I don’t really care about eating a ton of food and drinking a lot of alcohol. We opted to not purchase a drink package and brought our own wine on the ship. You could bring 2 bottles per stateroom. We took our wine to dinner with us on the formal nights. The food in the dining room was excellent. There were plenty of options and they did have vegetarian, gluten free and lactose free selections available. I really enjoyed the dining room. There were a lot of other places to grab quick bites to eat like pizza places, sandwich shops and snack bars. For the most part we ate our lunches and breakfast at the Solarium Bistro which was always less crowded and had a lot of healthy options. The main buffet had a lot of options but I really did not like it. It was super crowded and to me it seemed like a food frenzy. Not only were the plates heaped with food but a lot of it was left behind. The first time we went to the buffet I had to tell my daughters to take one serving because you could always go back for more. It is very easy to overeat at a buffet. We only went there twice and it was not my favorite place. I did my best to eat healthy during the day and at dinner enjoyed wine, appetizers and dessert.
Here are a few bonus tips that I feel were helpful and some things I would do differently as well.
- Book your excursion with the cruise line. They did a great job of getting us on and off the ship in a timely manner and all of our excursions were amazing. We especially loved the Jamaica River Float and Zip Line excursion with Chukka. The people were amazing!
- Pack a cheap floating mat, I wished I had one on our beach day in Haiti. They charged $18 to rent one. No thanks!
- Pack clothespins to hang up all your wet clothes in the bathroom because there are not a lot of towel racks and they can help hang up clothes too.
- Pack a water bottle. I filled my water bottle on the ship most of the time and did not have to purchase water. I only had to buy bottled water 2-3 times mostly off the ship.
- Pack a highlighter. If you are a planner like me you will need this. They give you a ship itinerary for each day and I liked to highlight the activities I wanted to do.
- Pack small bills. I had to change out my money a few times and this took some time so I would pack 5’s and 1’s.
- Pack your own wine to save money. Our ship allowed us to pack it and did not even charge a corkage fee. We also bought another bottle of wine on the last cruising day when it was 60% off.
- Pack bug spray. Our cruise line notified us that we would be traveling in areas with the Zika virus so we brought bug spray. In Jamaica we got a ton of bug bites even with the bug spray.
- You won’t need a power strip. We had plenty of plug ins and we didn’t even use the power strip we brought.
- We packed walkie talkies but did not even use them.
- Pack sticky notes to leave notes for your family, stateroom attendant or reminders to yourself.
- I thought I wanted a balcony in our room, but it was pretty spendy so we opted not to get one. I am glad. We were rarely in our room. We maybe spent 2 hours of the 7 days in our room besides sleeping and getting ready.
- The kids area was great. My younger daughter loved it. My older daughter didn’t really love the teen area. There were a lot of teen activities but they were not very well planned out. She missed the meet and greet night so that was tough. Be sure your teen hits the meet and greet I am sure it will help them meet new people.
- There were not a lot of dairy free options at the buffet or coffee places. I even asked and they said no at the coffee shop. This was a bit annoying. At the buffet the waitress said they could get me some soy milk.
- If you can use the spa do it. I purchased a simple thermal suite package where I could use the infrared sauna and the steam room as well as relax on a hot stone loungers. Plus I had access to the locker room and showers. I pretty much used it every day and it helped to shower in there rather than my room. I felt it was worth it.
- Take the stairs everywhere! Not only will you rack up some miles and get a good leg workout but you will also save a lot of time. The elevators were packed!
Have an awesome week. If you have any tips you would like to share please leave them in the comments. It’s nice to gather tips from all you fellow cruisers out there.