Ten Ways to Make Your Vacations Extraordinary

Ten Ways to Make Your Vacations Extraordinary

Ten Ways to Make Your Vacations Extraordinary

How can you make your vacations extraordinary? Do you feel like your vacations are monotonous? Do you tell your friends where you are going or what you did and they say “me too”? Well, it’s time to customize your vacations.  Yes, customization can add extra costs to your vacation. However, with strategic planning, you can add-on one benefit and cutback on another budgeted item. With or without VIP spending power, you can plus your travel routine! Your next vacation can absolutely stand out. With creative planning, you can even add special moments to your trip at no additional expense. By trying a new destination or just adding in a new activity, you’ll have a vacation that is personalized. Let’s check out ten ways to make your vacations extraordinary. Don’t be afraid to do something different. Mix it up and you'll be on your way to a trip that you'll be talking about for years. Click To Tweet

1. Change Your Mode of Transportation

Do you always fly to your destination? Or maybe you like the adventure of a road trip? Think about how exciting it would be to change your mode of transportation.

London Metro Westminster.

Tour a foreign city using the underground metro system.

If the kids are used to piling into your vehicle for a road trip, try flying to this year’s vacation destination. This might mean cutting back on other costs — and that’s okay! So, instead of renting a large beach house, fly to Washington D.C. and tour the free museums.

Fly to your next destination via Southwest or your favorite airline.

Fly to your next destination.

You can also change your transportation at your location. Do you always rent a sensible car for a couples only trip? Try renting a convertible or a jeep and see how much fun you add to your vacations.

Rent a convertible for memorable fun. This one is at the Biltmore Estate.

Rent a convertible for memorable fun.

Do you usually take Disney’s Magical Express from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) to your resort? Surprise the family with a car service; extra points if it’s a limo! If you use a car service on an airport trip, you’ll get that extra dose of “special” as soon as you land.

WDW Transportation Option Limousine

Reserve a limo!

From your port of call in Italy, is your first inclination to walk around the town or take a guided bus tour? Instead take the train to a place you’ve always dreamed about and travel with the locals.

Take a train to see a bucket list place -- like Pompeii!

Take a train to see a bucket list place — like Pompeii!

When you’re traveling to multiple locations, think how you can make the journey a little bit different. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, take the train. London to Paris? EuroStar!

2. Try a New Recreational Activity

Sure, you could go skydiving to really standout. But, you don’t have to go to that extreme. At the beach, take a surf lesson, go fishing, or go back-to-basics and fly a kite.

Fishing Thousand Islands New York

Try fishing!

 

Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina

Wright Brothers Visit National Memorial at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, then…

 

Fly a kite at the sand dunes in North Carolina.

Go fly a kite!

 

Flying Kite on Sand Dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park, North Carolina.

Flying Kite on Sand Dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, North Carolina.

On your next cruise trip, dance, rock climb, zipline, or ice skate. Learn a new dance routine to really shake things up!

Dance the night away! Dazzles, Royal Caribbean.

Dance the night away! Dazzles, Royal Caribbean.

Many of us gear our Walt Disney World trips around the theme parks. On your next trip, spend a day outside the parks to enjoy playing miniature golf, boating, fishing, horseback riding, or learning archery.

Rent a Sea Raycer. Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.

Rent a Sea Raycer. Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

3. A New Destination or Time of Year

This one may seem obvious but many of us tend to go to the same destinations at the same time year. Of course, familiar vacations are memorable. Traditions are also important to families. Still, you can change your routine just a little bit to make your next journey extra special. If you usually travel over Spring Break, book this year’s trip for Thanksgiving. Try visiting your favorite location during the festive holiday season and see the  locale in a whole new light.

Merry Christmas Slipper Dessert Grand Floridian Cafe Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Slipper Dessert at Grand Floridian Cafe on Christmas Eve.

A new destination can sometimes be daunting. Will you enjoy it? Usually, the answer is yes. Ditch the beach and go to the mountains. Stuck on land-based vacations? Take a cruise.

Jewel of the Seas Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Take a cruise!

Or just change beaches: Hilton Head Island instead of Myrtle Beach; Destin, Florida instead of Gulf Shores, Alabama; Rehoboth Beach, Delaware instead of Ocean City, Maryland; a West Coast beach instead of East Coast getaway, and so forth. Even if you return to your once familiar vacation for the following year, you’ll find yourselves reminiscing… ...remember the year we went to_________________. Dare to fill in the blank! Click To Tweet

Huntington Beach, California.

Huntington Beach over Thanksgiving!

Or think farther away and go to Europe. Sail the Mediterranean instead of the Caribbean. Head to Hawaii instead of Mexico. The possibilities are endless.

It's like sailing back in time as your ship sails into the Grand Harbor at Valletta, Malta.

Sailing into the Grand Harbor, Malta.

 

Touring Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

Touring Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

 

Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort South Carolina

Try a new-to-you vacation spot!

If you’re a Disney World fan that always attends the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, try visiting during the spring instead and tour the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Or plan to attend the Halloween festivities in the Magic Kingdom.

4. Splurge on Amenities

Amenities are the little things that make us feel special. From chocolate-covered strawberries delivered to your cruise stateroom to balloons delivered to your Walt Disney World resort, added amenities are always memorable. And instagram-worthy!! 😉

Order special treats to enjoy during your vacation!

Order special treats to enjoy during your vacation!

5. Tweak Your Traveling Party

If you always travel with kids in tow, take a couples only trip. Invite the grandparents and/or aunts and uncles. Take a parent-child only trip for special bonding time — this works for parents of grown children too. Try a guys trip to the Caribbean to scuba dive or a ladies trip to New York City to see a show. Imagine the possibilities!

Family travel Walt Disney World.

Travel with family!

6. Make Your Trip a Celebration

From a destination wedding to a birthday getaway, your trip is the perfect time to celebrate. Don’t let those annual milestones go unnoticed. This year, take a weekend trip for your anniversary, go on a cruise for your birthday, or take your child to Disneyland Paris for graduation.

Our son's January birthday celebration aboard the Disney Wonder.

Our son’s January birthday celebration aboard the Disney Wonder.

For our 10th anniversary, we renewed our vows in Walt Disney World!

Cinderella's Coach Vow Renewal Walt Disney World

A splurge for our 10th anniversary vow renewal — riding in Cinderella’s Coach!

Whenever someone asks me what I want to do for my birthday? The answer involves travel. I’ve spent my birthday on a cruise ship, in Barcelona, in Paris, on a road trip heading home from Yellowstone, at beaches, and so on. Of course, I’ve been in Walt Disney World a number of times! Skip the gifts and make some priceless memories instead.

7. Take a Tour

You could take a guided tour for your entire vacation or add on tours during your trip. Some of my favorite tours: Stonehenge from London; Normandy from Paris; a cruise ship tour of the captain’s bridge; a plantation in St. Croix; a Magic Kingdom tour; Roswell, New Mexico; and Carthage and Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia.

A tour to Stonehenge.

A tour to Stonehenge.

Tours can often be pricey, however they add convenience and/or in-depth education that is usually not regretted.

8. Cross Off a Bucket List Item

On every single trip, you have the opportunity to cross off a bucket list item. Bucket list achievements come in all sizes.

Devils Tower Wyoming

Devils Tower Wyoming

Try one of these personal goals:

  • Teach your child to ride a bike.
  • See the Milky Way.
  • Picnic in a beautiful setting.
  • Watch a turtle crawl to the sea.
  • See the Chincoteague ponies.
  • Dine somewhere special; extra points if it’s for New Year’s Eve or another celebration.
  • Get a tattoo.
  • Learn to…. paddleboard, ski, golf, mix a delicious cocktail, make authentic pizza, etc.
  • Swim with a dolphin.
Bike riding at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort.

Bike riding on vacation!

 

Make memories on vacation by teaching your child something new like bike riding.

Proud bike rider!

 

Bike Riding Currituck Club Outer Banks North Carolina

Go exploring via bicycle!

 

See the Chincoteague Ponies.

See the Chincoteague Ponies in Virginia.

 

Horseback Riding at Bill Cody Ranch in Wyoming.

Horseback Riding at Bill Cody Ranch in Wyoming.

9. Take More Pictures

Hiring a photographer to take pictures of the whole family is an extra special way to commemorate your trip. Whether it’s a once in a lifetime adventure or an annual vacation, photographs will always keep the memories alive.

Taking photos at the Grand Canyon

Take lots of photos!

And here are two important tips: * Give each child an age-appropriate camera. Some of the most touching or extremely hilarious photos that we have viewed were from our young child’s eyes. * Include the family’s photographer in photos. I’m usually the photographer in the family and well, there just aren’t a ton of photos of me. Do better than we did — you won’t regret it. Every now and then, have a photo watching night at home. Which vacations were your favorites? Take a vote on where to travel next.

10. Upgrades

Finally, there’s nothing like an upgrade to make your vacation stand out. Upgrade your accommodations (get a balcony stateroom or a Magic Kingdom view), meals, souvenir purchases, excursions, and other vacation components.

BoardWalk Inn WDW Concierge Room

Concierge Room at the BoardWalk Inn.

Do you usually sail in an interior cabin? Next cruise, drive to the port instead of flying and upgrade to an oceanview cabin. Or try a cruise line (like Disney or Royal Caribbean) that is new to you. Not sure which one is right for you — read my Disney vs. Royal Caribbean Splashdown.

Disney Cruise Line's Magic in the Mediterranean.

Magic in the Med!

Headed to Walt Disney World for a week of quick-service meals? Maybe try a few table-service meals instead of purchasing more Mickey Ears and other souvenirs.

Pizza at Epcot's Via Napoli. Italy Pavilion Walt Disney World.

Pizza at Epcot’s Via Napoli!

Of course, there’s something to be said for the familiarity and tradition of visiting the same location each year. Just change it up a bit. Make your vacation extraordinary!

Walt Disney World Date Ideas
Date Ideas for Valentine's Day at Walt Disney World

How have you made your vacations extra special? Share in the comments below or join the discussion on our Facebook Page.

How to Make Your Next Vacation Extraordinary
how to make your vacation stand out
How to make your vacations stand out!
Royal Caribbean Restaurant: Chops Grille on Oasis

Royal Caribbean Restaurant: Chops Grille on Oasis

Chops Grille – an Oasis Dinner Review

Nestled in Central Park on deck 8 of Oasis of the Seas, Chops Grille, a Royal Caribbean signature restaurant, has been serving up steakhouse specialties for over ten years.

We sailed on Oasis in January and June of 2017 and had the good fortune of dining at Chops Grille on both sailings.

Chops Grille is located in Central Park on the Oasis with Royal Caribbean

Chops Grille is located in Central Park on the Oasis.

Chops Grille in Central Park aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

A beautiful Central Park location.

As a hallmark restaurant aboard Royal Caribbean ships, Chops impresses diners with a menu featuring hand cut steaks and other entrees with a contemporary flair. In fact, from the appetizers to the desserts, Chops Grille will surprise guests with a mix of traditional and non-traditional fare. There are also some unexpected items — um, tater tots, anyone?!

Entrance to Chops Grille

Entrance to Chops Grille.

Chops Grille on Oasis

Make a reservation for Chops Grille.

With its prime location in Central Park, diners can select from indoor or outdoor seating.

Outdoor seating at Chops Grille.

Outdoor seating.

We had a voucher for a complimentary meal that required us to reserve a seating with the restaurant after embarkation. So, we stopped by Chops Grille after having lunch in the Windjammer and were still able to secure an early reservation for Tuesday evening — my birthday. Yay!

Celebrate a special occasion at Chops Grille.

Celebrating birthday at Chops Grille.

Restaurant Ambiance

Once inside the restaurant, the rich dark wood is complimented with jeweled tones in red and gold. Luxurious velvet padded chairs as well as banquettes encourage diners to sit and savor the ambiance during their multi-course meal.

Chops Grille has luxurious seating.

Luxurious seating.

Jewel tones add to the upscale feel at Chops Grille.

Jewel tones add to the upscale feel at Chops Grille.

Upon arrival, we were quickly seated at a lovely table. The restaurant was empty, however it quickly filled up as our meal progressed through its decadent stages. Of note, service was impeccable on both of our recent visits. We enjoyed that our selections were served as requested (well-done steak for my mom; vanilla ice cream instead of coconut for me) and that our beverages were quickly filled upon ordering.

Plush seating in Chops Grille

Our table.

A welcoming table setting awaits Royal Caribbean diners when entering the restaurant.

Chops Grille welcomes diners with a gorgeous table setting.

Welcoming table setting.

White table setting at Chops Grille.

White table setting.

The tablescape at Chops Grille.

Pretty tablescape.

Chops Grille Plate.

Chops Grille Plate.

Dinner Menu

As the signature steakhouse aboard the Oasis of the Seas, this Royal Caribbean restaurant specializes in the usual fare of beef, seafood, and chicken, as well as dry-aged steaks and Maine lobster for an additional up-charge. Seriously, you’ll do just as well sticking with the Filet Mignon or other dishes included with the cover charge.

Chops Grille Menu cover.

Menu Cover.

Soups, Salads, and Appetizers at Chops Grille.

Soups, Salads, and Appetizers.

Chops Grille Menu Items.

Chops Grille Menu Items.

We utilized our beverage packages to order drinks, and then our waiter began the meal with freshly baked bread and delicious whipped butter. A great meal always starts with memorable bread service!

Bread service at Chops Grille.

Bread service

For appetizers, three of us went with the Three Cheese Roasted Onion Soup blended with Melted Gruyere, Asiago, and Parmesan cheeses. My husband once again ordered the King Caesar. The soup was on point and the Caesar salad was “to die for”. Sorry, on both occasions, we dug in without taking pictures of our apps. 😉

My husband and son ordered the Filet Mignon, cooked to order — medium, for both of them. Both were extremely happy with their perfectly grilled, seasoned steaks. Both rated it as highly as the memorable filet mignon at Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian in Walt Disney World. For them, that’s saying this entree was exceptional.

Filet Mignon at Chops Grille.

Filet Mignon.

My mom likes her steak well-done and as you know chefs are usually appalled by this request. Still, the waiter suggested that her filet be butterflied and thus, it was presented as ordered. She also enjoyed her meal with her steak cooked as she prefers it. Kudos to Chops for their accommodating nature.

Butterflied Filet Mignon, well done at Chops Grille.

Butterflied Filet Mignon, well done.

I’m the picky eater of the group, thus I once again ordered the Roasted Organic Chicken Breast. Tender, moist, and flavorful (that truffled chicken jus is scrumptious!), this entree wasn’t at all boring to my finicky palate.

Roasted Organic Chicken Breast at Chops Grille.

Roasted Organic Chicken Breast.

Roasted Organic Chicken Breast at Chops Grille on Oasis.

Roasted Organic Chicken Breast.

Sides are served family style so we suggest discussing selections prior to ordering. We had Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Tater Tots, Salt Baked Potato, and Creamed Corn. We were pleased with all of these items. The Baked Potato was exceptionally good — probably because the waiter poured melted butter all over it right at the table!

Baked Potato at Chops Grille.

Baked Potato.

And with a dollop of sour cream!

Baked Potato with Sour Cream at Chops Grille.

Baked Potato with Sour Cream.

Everyone at our table raved about this baked potato. We decided that we’d have to try adding melted butter to our at-home versions. 😉

Salted Baked Potato at Chops Grille.

Salted Baked Potato.

Sides at Chops Grille.

Sharing the sides was fun!

Yes, we did get two mashed potatoes!

Tater Tots, mashed potatoes, and cream corn at Chops Grille.

Tater Tots, mashed potatoes, and cream corn.

Desserts

I subbed vanilla ice cream in place of the coconut flavor with my Liquid Center Chocolate Cake. This dessert made me want to lick the plate. Every bite of caramelized banana and chocolate-y cake was amazing.

Liquid Center Chocolate Cake at Chops Grille.

Liquid Center Chocolate Cake .

My husband and son opted for the Red Velvet Cake. With moist cake and hefty helping of rich cheese frosting, this choice is a sweet finish to your meal. My 17-year old son rated it a 9 out of 10.

Red Velvet Cake at Chops Grille.

Red Velvet Cake.

The grand finale was a cheesecake dessert served for the occasion — my birthday — complete with singing waiters.

Huckleberry Cheesecake at Chops Grille.

Huckleberry Cheesecake.

Chops Grille Facts

  • Reservations are recommended for Chops Grille.
  • Dress is smart casual.
  • Cover charge (currently $42 on Oasis) includes gratuities.
  • Open for lunch on sea days.
  • Consider purchasing a specialty dining package.
  • Suite guests can look at menus while relaxing in the Suite Lounge.
Suite guests can peruse menus in the Lounge.

Menus are available for Suite guests in the lounge.

To make reservations, call your travel professional or use the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean’s website as this restaurant books up quickly.

Chops Grille, Royal Caribbean.

While the coverage charge has seen several increases in recent years, Chops Grille is certainly a voucher or dining package worthy pick. Even if we weren’t celebrating a special occasion, I’d pay out of pocket for this delightful and attentive meal.

Have you dined at Chops Grille on one of the Royal Caribbean ships? Share your favorite Chops Grille tips.

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Cruise Activities for Teens: Discover Fun Outside the Teen Club

Cruise Activities for Teens: Discover Fun Outside the Teen Club

Five Cruise Activities for Teens

Having just recently gone on a cruise aboard the Oasis of the Seas, I came to the realization on the first day that I did not want to spend much time in the teen club area or doing organized cruise activities for teens.

Oasis of the Seas with Royal Caribbean

Oasis of the Seas.

For one, at 17 1/2 I was one of the oldest at the first event in The Living Room. Also, I felt this cruise was just meant for me to enjoy some downtime and relax. I had just finished my Junior Year of high school with all of the stresses that entails — AP courses and exams, ACT exams, touring colleges, and so on. And I was TIRED and BURNED OUT.

The Living Room Teen Area on Oasis of the Seas

The Living Room space is for teens only!

On previous cruises, I had spent time participating in the organized teen activities from early in the day until 1:00AM, which is usually the ship’s curfew time for under 18 cruisers. Those were some good times and I’d recommend you give it a try. On this trip, I was still out late because there was so much to do on the Oasis that I kept busy even without stopping by the teen club. Flowrider, Comedy Shows, Stargazing, Miniature Golf, Rock Climbing, Diving Shows, and more kept me entertained on the ship.

The Rock Climbing Wall on Oasis is fun for all ages.

Try the Rock Climbing Wall!

This time, I wanted to have some fun on my own schedule. So without doing any teen activities, I found out very quickly how to have a good time on the cruise ship. The following list can also apply to those who are in that weird age gap (18-20) where you cannot be part of the teen group, nor can you take part in having a couple of drinks at the bars. For the casino, you’ll need to be 18 on all sailings, except Alaska where you’ll need to be 21. The adult night club requires proof of age (21) as well.

Teens will find activities like rock climbing on a cruise.

Find adventure aboard the Oasis.

So in no real order of importance, here are my five ways for older teens to have fun on a cruise ship.

Shows

There are plenty of shows to go see on board a cruise. Whether it’s a stomach cramping comedy show, a Broadway performance, or anything in between, there’s always a show going on for anyone’s taste. And the best part about it, they are all free. So, get some popcorn and enjoy the show.

Older teens should attend a comedy show in the Opal Theater on Oasis.

The adult comedy show in the Opal Theater on Oasis were hysterical!

The Come Fly With Me Show on Oasis of the Seas

Come Fly With Me Show.

Beverages

Go to the bar. Don’t worry, all bars can make any mixed drink without alcohol (otherwise known as virgin). Got a hankering for a fruity drink? Go up to the bar and order a virgin Strawberry Daiquiri, Lava Flow, or any others you can think of. In my experience, the Lava Flow is certainly one to try. Delicious! I also enjoyed quite a few strawberry daiquiri mocktails. Look for mocktails on the bar menus for more options.

Strawberry Daiquri cocktails and mocktails on Oasis of the Seas.

Strawberry Daiquiri on Oasis. Teens can order it as a mocktail!

Get your favorite beverage at Starbucks and watch a sports game at On Air.

Grab a Starbucks beverage on Oasis of the Seas.

Starbucks Coffee on Oasis of the Seas.

Swimming and Other Activities

Most certainly, the cruise ship you will be on will have at least one swimming pool. So put on some swim trunks and cool off in the pool. Maybe you’ll be on a ship that has a slide or some other sort of water attraction, such as the FlowRider (simulated surfing) on the Royal Caribbean ships (Freedom class and higher) or the water slide (AquaDuck) on Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

The FlowRider is a surf simulator on some Royal Caribbeanships.

Go surfing on the Oasis!

AquaDuck on the Disney Dream is fun for teens.

The AquaDuck on the Disney Dream is amazing.

I’ve been on Disney Magic but not since they installed the AquaDunk, a thrilling water slide. And, it looks like other cruise lines like Carnival have some cool slides too.

Carnival cruise ship with water slides.

Carnival Cruise ship with cool water slides.

If your ship offers rock climbing, ice skating, miniature golf, FlowRider, or ziplining, try them out!

Zipline across the Boardwalk area on Oasis.

Try ziplining on Oasis of the Seas.

Food

On a cruise ship, there are no such thing as calories (it’s vacation!), so go exploring for some snacks. Whether it’s a small sandwich from a café, such as the Café Promenade on Royal Caribbean, or an ice cream cone that you can acquire from the free dispensers on most cruise lines, there’s always something you can find to eat.

Cafe Promenade sandwiches are great for a late night snack on the Oasis.

These sandwiches were delicious for a late night snack.

And don’t forget to try new foods. At dinner, order a new-to-you appetizer. Don’t like it; no problem. You can order a replacement or move on to the next course.

Relaxation

Tired of dealing with your peers, exams, a busy schedule? Then take the time on your cruise to relax and enjoy being away from reality. Go up on deck and enjoy soaking up the sun (just be sure to put on sunscreen). Take a nap in your stateroom. People watch. Read a book. The possibilities are endless.

A great time to find a quiet place on deck 15 aboard the Oasis is in the late morning while in port. We like to go ashore after enjoying a crowd-free morning on the ship.

Deck 15 on Oasis is a great place to read on late mornings in port.

Find a quiet place to read on the Oasis, deck 15.

Oasis had awesome fixed binoculars that worked well for looking at the moon at night. You’ll find them by using the port side stateroom corridor and heading forward (not aft) on Deck 14. I think there were signs pointing to the Observation Decks.

Deck 14 of Oasis has fixed binoculars.

Fixed Binoculars are mounted on the forward wings on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis, Deck 14.

Walk the upper decks and enjoy stargazing on Royal Caribbean's Oasis.

Full Moon lights up the sky on Oasis sailing.

I hope you found this short list to be helpful to you in some way. On your sailing, you’ll discover lots of cruise activities for teens.

Cruise Activities for Teens.

And as this is my first post on the blog, you can expect to hear more from me in the future. Have a great day and Bon Voyage!

Teens — share your favorite cruise activities. Parents — what do your teens like to do when cruising?

Reasons to Splurge on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Balcony Stateroom

Reasons to Splurge on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Balcony Stateroom

A Balcony Stateroom on Royal Caribbean

There are countless reasons to splurge on a Royal Caribbean Cruise. While a balcony stateroom is an added cost, having a private, outdoor ocean view may be worth busting the budget.

Balcony Stateroom with Royal Caribbean

It’s true that you can enjoy the ocean air and beautiful vistas from public decks on the ship. And if your main goal is a cost-effective vacation, then that’s definitely how you should cruise. Plus, there are times that your stateroom accommodations won’t seem as important. For instance, when we sailed the Mediterranean, we were away from the ship for many hours on once-in-a-lifetime visits to exotic locales. When we returned to the ship, we were too darn tired to care that our ocean view was courtesy of a simple window.

If you plan to spend a lot of time on the ship and have some extra funds, I recommend trying a balcony stateroom. Let’s take a look at some of our balcony experiences aboard Royal Caribbean ships!

Afternoon Nap

Take an afternoon nap while listening to the ocean.

Royal Caribbean Balcony Stateroom. Fresh ocean air.

The sound of the ocean is conducive to afternoon naps.

Connecting Balconies

When traveling with extended family, we always have our cabin steward open the partition between our balconies. This gives us extra room to visit. When arriving or leaving a port, you’ll find us out here enjoying the view.

Stateroom balcony partitions can be opened to allow families to enjoy a larger balcony.

Connecting balconies are great for families!

Embarkation

It’s always interesting to watch the goings-on at a port while a ship is preparing to depart. We love to watch the late arrivals running to the ship. The last minute mad dashers always make us laugh.

Watching people return to Royal Caribbean ship.

Watching people return to the ship.

Enjoying Coffee While Docking

There’s something wonderful about watching the ship dock in a new port while drinking coffee from a stateroom balcony.

Morning coffee on stateroom's balcony on Royal Caribbean cruise.

Enjoy your coffee looking at the sea!

Passenger on Royal Caribbean enjoys coffee on outdoor balcony while heading into a new port.

More coffee time while heading into port.

Morning Sunrise

Watching the sun rise with an entire day of vacation ahead is exhilarating.

A morning sunrise while cruising into port.

Good morning!

Read a Book

Retreat to your balcony and read a book. This is a lovely pastime before heading to dinner at Windjammer or Chops Grille!

There's plenty of time to read a book while cruising at sea.

Read a book

Ships

Yes, occasionally you’ll see other ships in the distance.

Watch for other ships from the comfort of our balcony on a Royal Caribbean ship.

A ship in the distance

Take Pictures

From the comfort of your private balcony, take beautiful photos of your Ports of Call.

From the Royal Caribbean's Jewel, a passenger enjoys the beautiful Mexican port view.

Enjoy a beautiful view while in port

Waving to Other Cruisers

Go ahead and wave! It’s fun to wave hello (and goodbye) to passengers on other ships. It’s as if you haven’t seen civilization in oh, a day or so.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships docking next to each other. Passengers waving hello.

Waving to passengers on a Celebrity ship.

We really make use of our balcony and find the added expense worth it for us. Morning, afternoon, and evening — the ambiance is truly special. It’s the first place I venture to in the morning and the last in the evening. Watching the moonlight dance across the ocean just before going to bed is quite magical. And then there’s the ocean air that revives the soul. Priceless.

These are just some of the reasons that we love to splurge on a balcony. We’ve sailed on Independence, Freedom, and Jewel. In January 2017, we spent our 25th anniversary aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas in a Grand Suite. We loved it so much, we returned with family in June 2017!

Have you sailed on Royal Caribbean? What’s your cruise line and stateroom of choice?

Top Five Reasons to Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas

Top Five Reasons to Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas

Top Five Reasons to Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas

We recently sailed aboard the Oasis of the Seas with Royal Caribbean International. If you’ve sailed on smaller ships with any cruise line, you’ll be amazed with the plethora of entertainment and dining options aboard the Oasis and Quantum class ships.

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas

After last year’s Spring Break sailing with our family on the Freedom of the Seas in a balcony stateroom, we quickly booked the Oasis for our 25th anniversary celebration in January 2017. We had contemplated various destinations, including European, for our getaway but opted for a relaxing cruise in a Grand Suite.

Grand Suite Oasis

Grand Suite

We counted down the months until our Oasis sailing anticipating a restful vacation. And yes, we rested, relaxed, and left our cares ashore in Cape Canaveral. Surprisingly, we also got caught up in many of the activities offered on board this unique ship.

Beach Pool Chairs Oasis Royal Caribbean

Lounge Chairs at Beach Pool on Oasis

Here’s five reasons to book your next cruise on the Oasis:

Dining

On this voyage, we ate in the main dining room, Coastal Kitchen (for suite and Pinnacle guests), Johnny Rockets, Chops Grille, Park Cafe, Windjammer, and more. The variety of dining options provided an extra element to our vacation that made it seem like we were vacationing in a city such as Las Vegas rather than on a Caribbean-bound ship.

Chops Grille Oasis

Chops Grille

The good news – I had lost some pounds before our trip. The bad news – I gained half of it back via cheese omelets, French toast, croissants, cookies, ice cream, and delicious dinners. Oh, there were specialty drinks too; my favorites were the Lava Flow and Strawberry Daiquiri.

Adult Activities

Another aspect of the trip that was a pleasant surprise — the endless activities offered for adults. From sunup to sundown, we used our orange highlighter to mark the offerings on our Cruise Compass that we found interesting. Of course, we didn’t get to half of them; we still had in mind that this trip was for rejuvenating, preferably while reading a great book.

Oasis Breakfast

Breakfast and a good book to start the day!

The activities that we went to were all enjoyable. Some of these included Geography Trivia, Captain’s Corner, and the Majority Rules Game Show (our team of 4 won!).

Oasis Captain's Corner

Also, we spent time in the Suite Lounge where complimentary beverages were available.

Reserved Shows

As suite guests, we did not have to reserve entertainment times except for the adult comedy show due to the small venue, Comedy Live. Coming soon: we’ll share the benefits of being a suite guest!

The shows that are able to be reserved are offered throughout the week and easily reserved via Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner. We loved Oasis of Dreams, the diving show in the Aqua Theater located in the Boardwalk neighborhood. The combination of the outdoor venue, unique setting, and talented performers made for an entertaining performance.

Oasis Aqua Theater

Oasis Aqua Theater

Another favorite was the Frozen in Time ice skating spectacular in Studio B located in the Entertainment Place neighborhood. Growing up, I spent countless hours in a skating rink and can truly appreciate the difficulty of skating aboard a moving ship on a small ice surface.

Shopping

I love to shop. Browse, buy, browse, browse, buy. It’s all good. 😉

Kate Spade store

Kate Spade store

While the weekly purse sale was a madhouse of women trying to snag a deal on designer bags (with one young man filming the chaos for his own amusement… LOL), it was fun to scoop up a deal on a Michael Kors purse.

Michael had fun picking out a Citizen watch.

Oasis of the Seas shopping

Shopping the Sales

Of course, we also got souvenirs (shirts, for example) and gifts for those we left at home. New cologne for the teen! Browsing through Tiffany, Kate Spade, and other stores was a pastime that added extra fun (and a little bit of exercise, right?!) to our cruise.

Solarium, Central Park, and Entertainment Place

After previously sailing on Freedom class ships and Jewel of the Seas, we were already fond of the solarium available to passengers ages 16 and older (previously 18+) due to the quiet space with cozy seating.

On Oasis, the Solarium is a double-deck hideaway with a variety of seating arrangements and cozy nooks for reading, socializing, and staring at the sea. One evening we went to a dance party, Twenty by Absolut, on the upper deck (Deck 16, Solarium Bar) of the Solarium. SeaPass cards were scanned for admittance. (If you know what the age limit is for this party, please let us know in the comments below!)

Solarium Oasis of the Seas

Relax in the Solarium

Central Park is an outdoor space with meandering pathways, tropical plants, romantic lighting, soothing cricket sounds, and lovely music.

Finally, Entertainment Place is home to fun venues such as Casino Royale, Jazz on 4, Comedy Live, Blaze, and Studio B.

Oasis Entertainment Place

Entertainment Place

Bon Voyage!

What’s your favorite cruise ship? Let us know in the comments below!


Cruise Packing Tips: 15 Items to Add to Your Cruise Packing List

Cruise Packing Tips: 15 Items to Add to Your Cruise Packing List

Cruise Packing Tips: 15 Items to Add to Your Cruise Packing List

Bon Voyage, it’s cruise packing time! After our recent cruise vacation and with another one booked for June, I wanted to suggest some items that you may have known about but forgot to put on your cruise packing list. Or… they may be items that you hadn’t even thought of yet. Don’t forget to pack these…

15 Items to Pack for your Cruise.

Dollar Bills, y’all

Before you even embark on the ship, you are going to have to get to port somehow. You’ll likely need money for tolls (include coins!), luggage valets, porters, and even the bartender at your pre-cruise hotel.

Plus, I love ordering room service (late night cookies, please!) and tipping the delivery attendant is a nice gesture.

Room Service

Highlighter

Your cruise entertainment schedules will have loads of fun options. Delivered each night to your stateroom, this listing is your key to all the fun that can be had on the ship. Don’t want to miss the ice skating show, belly flop competition, wine tasting, line dancing, art auction, spa sale, or other fun activity? Bring a highlighter.

I like to highlight the activities of interest the night before to keep organized. Of course, I don’t make it to all the activities — sometimes a girl just wants to sit out in an ocean breeze with an adult beverage at hand. But at least when I’m up for an activity, I can quickly eyeball what’s available.

Small Purse

I have a few favorites that I like to take on vacation. Lately, I’ve been going with my Coach Crossbody “Carrie” bag as it goes from day to evening really well. It’s also lightweight and versatile. I also like the Vera Bradley Mini Hipster Cross Body. It’s lightweight and has handy compartments for keeping everything at your fingertips. Holds passports and more!

Coach Crossbody Purse

You’ll want to keep your daily activity sheet, a pen, glasses, and a small camera with you at all times. This is also where I store my room key/onboard ship account card. You may like the idea of a lanyard worn around your neck; I prefer the small bag. Use what works best for you. Personalize your cruise packing list!

Royal Caribbean Lanyard

Luggage Tags/Ribbon

You’ll want to make sure that your luggage stands out from the crowd. Unless you travel with a neon pink suitcase in leopard spots (good thinking, by the way!), you’ll want to be able to easily identify your luggage. This is especially true when disembarking a cruise ship. There are thousands of people looking for their bags too. And while there will be a semi-organized system in the terminal, you’ll still be grateful when you can easily spot your bags without a lot of effort. After all, it’ll be early in the morning and you may have been up late the night before savoring every moment at sea. So, put a colorful piece of duct tape, a ribbon, a mini scarf, or a super recognizable luggage tag on each piece of luggage that you’ll be giving to the porters.

Plus, I have to recommend luggage tag holders. They are very handy for cruisers. Print your luggage tags, insert them into the plastic protectors, and secure to your luggage. No worries.

Hair Dryer

Each time I cruise, I swear that I won’t step aboard a ship again without my travel hair dryer. Learn from my mistake. I have thick hair that takes a long time to dry and those onboard dryers… well, they don’t dry.

A Pool/Beach Bag

I have a lightweight Vera Bradley tote bag that has multi-uses when on a cruise vacation. I can pile in my book, sunscreen, cover-up, camera, etc. This bag can also be utilized for the evening when I want to bring a sweater along to venues where it may be chilly.

Vera Bradley Tote Bag

Motion Sickness Pills

Just in case. You may have never experienced a twinge of motion sickness in your life (lucky you!) but get on a ship, have some adult beverages, load up at the buffet, and then feel some good sized waves and you might find yourself wishing you could take a little nip. Personally, Bonine chewable tablet work the best for me and my family. And a little nip (about a quarter of a pill) is exactly what I take before the ship sails. Most days and evenings, I won’t need another dose but if I feel a twinge of upset, I quickly take a half of a pill. I’m a lightweight when it comes to medication and they make me extremely sleepy. If the ship is really rocking, I might need a whole pill and then a lot of sleep! Consult your doctor before you leave home. Start your cruise packing early!

Lysol Spray and Disinfecting Wipes/Room Deodorizer

So, let’s talk staying healthy and keeping things smelling fresh. Those little bathrooms in your stateroom are not going to always smell like fresh ocean air. Especially if you are now sharing with other family members. I’m talking about my teen son and husband here. I bring a little air freshener to mask the odors.

And we Lysol spray the room. Wipe down the door knobs, remotes, etc. with disinfecting wipes. I’ve had norovirus at a hotel and while rather memorable, it’s not the sort of excitement that you’ll want to document in your travel journal. So, wipe it all down, wash your hands, and stay healthy.

Vera Bradley Weekender Bag

After dropping our luggage with the porters, we bring individual carry-on bags with us. My Vera Bradley Weekender Bag is my favorite. It’s so lightweight and the compartments keep all my stuff organized.

Vera Bradley Weekender

We bring breakables and other necessities aboard with us; things we may need before our checked luggage arrives the stateroom. Medications, change of clothes, a jacket if rain is in the forecast, cameras and other electronics, etc.

Lightweight Sweater

If you’re headed to the Caribbean, this one might not seem so obvious. Sometimes it can be chilly on deck in the evenings or at some indoor venues.

Lightweight Sweater

Moleskin and Scissors

What? On a ship? Surely with all the lazy days at sea, blisters are out of the question. Um, nope. Unless you don’t get up from your lounge chair or out of the hot tub all week, you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking on ship. Plus, you’ll probably be wearing new shoes, or dress shoes that you haven’t worn in a while, or those sandals that look adorable but rub the wrong way.

On land, you’ll be doing more activities even if it’s just a walk across a sandy beach to your new favorite spot under a palm tree.

So, yes, pack moleskin and a small pair of scissors to cut strips with. Or better yet, pre-cut strips before you pack them.

Wrinkle Releaser Plus Fabric Refresher Spray

You’ll want to dress up on some nights and you’ll be wishing that you could pack a travel iron. But, travel irons are frowned upon (read: prohibited) at sea due to fire hazards.

Solution: My husband likes Downy Wrinkle Releaser Plus. Follow the directions and it works! Spray, tug, and let the wrinkles release. It’s also great for refreshing a shirt that was worn already. But be realistic here, if you wore the shirt to play a game of dodgeball on the sports deck, it might be beyond a quick refresh!

Binoculars

We’ve seen a lot of interesting things at sea. Being able to zoom closer with binoculars enhances our cruise experience, especially when sailing into beautiful ports. What else have we spotted? A whale, dolphins, submarine, other cruise ships, a raft filled with refugees (yes, the ship brought them aboard!!), and more.

If you have a balcony, keep them nearby. If not, bring them along when you go up on deck.

Towel Clips/Clothespins

It can be breezy on your stateroom balcony and up on the pool deck so towel clips are a handy item to throw in your pool/beach bag. Also, clothespins have all kinds of uses. Pin curtains closed so that the morning light doesn’t awaken you too early!

Many of these cruise packing items can be packed in your luggage early.

Towel Clips

Night Light/Book Light/Battery Powered Candle

It can be very dark at night inside your stateroom. Bring a night light, book light, and/or battery powered candles for some helpful illumination.

These are 15 items that I recommend adding to your cruise packing list.

What’s On Your Cruise Packing List? Share in the comments below.