Social Media on the Sand Experience at Beaches Negril in Jamaica #BeachesMoms

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Every morning I pick up my phone and immediately go to my gratitude app. I list out what I’m grateful for right at that moment. On Monday morning of last week, my first day home from a whirlwind week in Jamaica, I about broke that app. My gratitude list was a mile long. The sweet memories just kept on coming, I had to keep adding them in.

Crawling out of bed and making my own breakfast was hard that morning, I tell ya. But my heart was full and I was still smiling after our time at Beaches Negril. I attended the Social Media on the Sand Conference at Beaches Negril via #BeachesMoms and it couldn’t have been better.

Listen, this is the first resort that we have stayed in, that my husband said “We’ve got to come back here next year” about. I need you to understand what a big deal this is. I’ve been traveling with this man a few times a year since we met back in 2001. Through boutique hotels, various cruises, and all inclusive resorts… he has never, ever said that he wants to return to a specific resort.  (and without any prompting from me!)

Beaches got him hooked! (And once I told him about Sandals being child-free…his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.)

So here’s my Epic recap of the conference as well as the gorgeous resort Beaches Negril.  Enjoy!! And feel free to send any questions my way!

We had a long ride from Runaway Bay to Negril. We used a great company for the transfer, and I highly recommend them to anyone. Our driver, Errol was early (I love that) personable, and let us stop where we wanted for breaks and beef patties. He pointed out interesting sights (Like where Usain Bolt lived and went to school) but wasn’t overly chatty, which I appreciated with the two napping preschoolers flanking me in the car.

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Arriving at Beaches Negril was sensory overload. Ro was cranky, we were all tired, and Kai had to potty like nobody’s business. I thought it would be a quiet peaceful lobby, and I could run Kai to the potty..but…It was like mardi gras!! There was music playing, everyone dancing, singing, a DJ announcing beachesmoms as we entered, people giving us flower leis, the sesame characters were out to say hi, there was a mini parade and a receiving line that had us feeling like celebrities! (John was high fiving his way down the aisle!) I wish I had been able to get photos before shuffling the kids to the potty. #myoneregret

It was a warm welcome to say the least!

We checked in, got our details for the days ahead and went to our beautiful room. Beaches Negril has it’s rooms splayed across the most beautiful beach. From garden view rooms to 3-bedroom butler suites, there’s no bad room on this property. We were in room 711, a second floor ocean view room. We could see the gorgeous sunset from the bedroom area window as well as from the balcony. (Quick Room Tour Vid) Our room was large enough to comfortable fit a family of 6! John and I shared the comfortable four poster king size bed, and there were two trundle beds! We used one for Rohan and Kais beds and the other was our couch. There was also a desk w/ chair and a vanity. The bathroom had double sinks (so clutch!) and a nice size tub. Closet space was huge! Also appreciated the high bed, it felt…royal…and also we could easily store our luggage underneath.

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Quick backstory: My husband works a lot. He leaves the house at 8 and gets home at 9:30. Needless to say, that only leaves weekends to have quality time together as a family of four and he doesn’t have much daddy/daughter daddy/son time these days. Well, this trip was extra special for him because he got a hearty dose of his children! They hit the waterpark together each day while I was at the Social Media on the Sand events.

Oh yes…. the events!

Our first day at the conference was one I will never forget. Before the trip Rohan and I shopped for school supplies and packed up two bookbags for children in Jamaican schools that needed them. On this day we got to deliver them, and so much more, to schools via the Sandals Foundation!

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The Sandals Foundation does so much good work in the caribbean! They are working with vetted non profits to help Haiti and the Bahamas after hurricane Matthew, they partnered with School Speciality and other great companies to provide books, school supplies and more to schools in Jamaica. They work with the hospitals too, to do good work in the pediatric cancer research arena. (Check them out, and donate here: GoFundMe.com/BeachesMoms)

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We visited the Mount Airy School. It was about a 30 minute drive from Beaches Negril, up a windy hill. The children there were so much fun. I got to work one-on-one with a bright little 6 year old named Tiesha. She sang Let it Go for me, and we worked on her ABCs, writing, read a couple of stories and did some reading comprehension questions. She was smart and also very artistic. We colored in a message that Sandals Foundation is sending to children in Haiti that were impacted by Matthew. I may be biased, but I think she made the most innovative rainbow I’d ever seen.

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After the one on one all the children sang songs for us and I got to watch Tiesha interacting with her friends… This girl was the perfect partner for me. She was a little busy body, minding everyone’s business, answering the teacher when they asked someone else a question and generally being a little extrovert. I love her.

The #BeachesMoms team really had a lot of treats in store for us. We had fun parties each evening. There was even karaoke, tho I didn’t get to attend that event. The first night cocktail party had mini spa treatments which was sweet and appreciated by us weary travelers. The closing night party was pretty epic, (foam party!) though I had to leave a bit early to make it to dinner at the hibachi restaurant.

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The beach party was my favorite, and I wish my kids were in better spirits for it. Dinner was on the beach, open bar, great music and all this after a parade with dancers, fire dancers and most importantly, the Sesame Street characters through the resort and out to the beach. It was so much fun! Then there was an amazing presentation with magicians and contortionists etc. The DJ was great, playing clean versions of today’s hits and reggae favorites. It was such fun for us BeachesMoms.

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At the conference we learned a lot about the Sandals/Beaches brands.  We got the scoop on the history and the future of what’s to comes from Beaches resorts (the family brand) and Sandals resorts (the couples-only brand and parent company). The brand is big on topping itself, and wants to reinvent, be ahead of the trend and amaze guests. They were the first to have butler service in the Caribbean and they are now the first to offer over-water bungalows there!

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image via sandals.com

This year I started travel blogging in earnest, and I’m putting some of the places in the Beaches/Sandals family on my wish list to partner with in the future to share with you. They look amazing and judging from Beaches Negril, the quality will be awesome.

The conference session I attended on FB Live basically let me know that I am totally doing it wrong. I learned about some good gear to get for live-streaming (or doing any type of video) I especially enjoyed Rene Syler’s (Good Enough Mother) presentation to us at the conference. She spoke to my soul reminding us to be women first, moms second, take time for ourselves so we can take care of our families and have more of self left over when kids are gone. So important.

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Social Media on the Sand’s last day was full of fun. We networked, did fruit carving and broke into various sessions. Some took sailing lessons, underwater photography, I took the Jamaican culture session which had us chattin’ in patois and doing reggae dances. We also learned how to play a song I love on the steel pan drums! I was a natural. (not!)

The BSM Media team and the entire Beaches/Sandals crew and all the sponsors really did an amazing job. The conference was a lot of fun, a great family getaway, and balanced the fun and education with free time in a natural way. (Check out some of our sponsor gifts here)

Beaches Negril was the perfect setting for the Social Media on the Sand conference. The resort was large enough to have a whole host of activities, but small enough to not be annoying. The food options were great. We could (and did) grab a beef patty as an appetizer at the poolside grill, enjoy a dinner at the Mexican, Caribbean or Sushi restaurant with no reservations, then go to the Parisian Cafe for a cappuccino and dessert. I tried both of the restaurants that require reservations, the Italian and Japanese Hibachi spots. Both were delicious with excellent service.

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I loved how kid-focused the resort was and every resort employee seemed to be. Every staff member seemed to light up at the sight of our kids and was extra friendly with them. The resort itself offered so much for kids of any age to enjoy. The waterpark was a lot of fun for children and adults (John and I did those slides quite a few times!) There was a DJ Academy for teens/tweens, a separate kids camp divided by age so nobody gets bored, and so much to do all day long at each one.

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For littles like mine, the Sesame Street themed kids camp was perfect! They did activities like baking cookies with Cookie Monster and bird watching with Big Bird. The offerings for parents of littles were exceptional! A breakfast with all the characters, a beach photoshoot with your choice of characters, and the best ever: A tuck in with the character of your choice.

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I told Rohan he had a special nighttime surprise all day and got him excited. He thought he knew what it was. He thought my dad was coming to visit him, ha! He said it’s grampa… then opened the door to see Elmo standing there. He gasped so loud, screamed ELMOOO and ran to him for a hug. It was precious. Then Elmo came in with his helper, and did stretches to get ready for bed, then read a bed time story, sang a song, and went to sleep. Rohan was angling for Elmo to stay the night but we finally convinced him that Elmo had to sleep in his own big boy bed.

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Kaya was scared of the characters, but she hung with Elmo for the tuck in and only freaked out once when he tried to touch her.  She finally gave Abby (one of her faves) a hug on the last day. She straight up told the count she didn’t like him and screwfaced the rest of the characters like she does everyone else in life. #SMH Rohan was the perfect age for these experiences. He called the characters “moving elmo” and “moving grover” hahaa! Kaya calls them “real elmo.”

Balancing out all the kid centered action at Beaches is a lot for parents to enjoy. John and I enjoyed our first scuba dive together in a long time. The dive operation is top notch, and is included in your room price! Other water activities that are included are snorkeling, glass bottom boat rides, snuba diving (cross between scuba and snuba), banana boat rides, kayaks, stand up paddleboards… Lots to enjoy as a family or while the kids are in kids camp.

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If you’re not the watersport type there were patois lessons, jamaican dance classes and other dry activities. The great thing is, you could be as lazy as you want. If you don’t want to participate you’re not hassled to. You could laze in the huge pool with swim up bar or enjoy the beach like a beachbum. The beach here was so beautiful, clean, and full of life. We found many small seastars in the water, small fishies, and even saw a sting ray hanging out. The water was warm enough for even me and I’m always cold.

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We all had an amazing time at Beaches Negril. We had a lot of firsts as a family. My first time attending the awesome Social Media on the Sand Conference. Our first trip to Jamaica, first time at a Beaches resort,  first resort vacation for the kids at at all, first time they had to use passports, first time with the kids meeting “real” characters, first beach photoshoot which I’ve wanted to do for ages. Loved this entire trip.

Ever since we’ve been home I’ve been answering questions about Beaches and I’ve had one of my friends book a trip for next year to Beaches in Turks & Caicos! I would recommend this resort to any family no matter the age of your children. If you have any questions for me, I’m happy to answer. I can’t wait to go back to Beaches!

Ok I’m Ready to Go RVing!!! #GoRVing

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My dear husband John has been trying to talk me into going RVing for years. In case you’ve forgotten or are new to my blog, we met when I was 19, and I’m turning 35 shortly. That is 16 years of “it’ll be fun, trust me” and “you’ll love it.” Sixteen years of stories about his youth, camping and cabins in Maine, stories about the family drives with the dog in the vehicle as well…

Which also means it was 16 years of me saying “Jamaicans don’t go RVing.” “No thanks, let’s do a hotel.” “it’s too small.” “it’s too bare-bones.” etc…

A few weekends ago in LA, the folks from GoRVing.com completely turned me around at BlogHer’s annual conference. I still haven’t outright told John that I’m 100% down to go RVing… but… I secretly am!

I got to tour two styles of RVs while onsite. You can check out the Facebook Live videos below:

How cute are those RVs?! I later found out that you can totally customize your own RV and they come in tons of sizes and configurations to accommodate families of any number. You can also make it as luxe as you want! I didn’t realize how customizable they are. If you know yourself 100% and wont be doing any cooking at all, you don’t have to fill space with a kitchen area. You can put seating, or expand a bathroom, or whatever! You can make it your own! I love that it doesn’t have to feel “rustic” if you don’t want it to.

What was super surprising to me was how affordable RVs were. In my mind they were as much as a house…but you can get one as low as $6k. That’s not bad at all! I also found out you can rent one and try it out (which is likely what we’ll do at first).

Two of my neighbors on the block have huge RVs parked in their yard and one has one in a second garage he built for it so I’m going to ask them about it too. I’m actually kind of excited about this. The family togetherness aspect has me. I mean, for John it’ll be nostalgic and familiar, for me…well I just love trying new things and travel in general, and for the kids, they just love everything!

Not having to look for hotels or AirBnBs is another aspect that has me sold. We can be spontaneous and go wherever we want on any given weekend. Since we’re still fairly new to Florida, we still have sooo many cities to explore that are within 2-6 hrs drive. We can do a lot of impromptu weekends away if we have an RV. And it’ll cut the cost on hotels as well as the stress of it all. I could just keep some necessities stocked in the RV so I don’t have to pack the things we’ll certainly need.

Everything will feel like an adventure for me with an RV. I’m surprised at myself, but really have lost my objections now that I know I wont be sleeping with bugs and forced to eat burned hot dogs or something. John’s going to be so excited! I can’t wait to make new RVing memories with him so he can tell our grandkids about our family travels one day.

Have you ever gone RVing?

How to Cruise with Kids (Part 3): Choosing Your Excursions

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How to Cruise with Kids

If you’re just finding this guide on How To Cruise With Kids, please check out the previous posts:

  1. Choosing Your Cruise
  2. All About the Kids Club

Choosing Your Excursions:

The great part about cruising is that your ship will stop at multiple ports during your cruise vacation. You have the option to simply debark and explore the area on your own or book an excursion. Excursions are organized group tours and experiences.

My number one tip for cruise excursions (whether you go as a family, couple or even solo) is:

RESEARCH BEFOREHAND

Some sites I look to for info:

If you simply google cruise excursions + destination, you’ll find tons of resources to help you plan your trip. You’ll find reviews, ideas and even private tour operator websites.

You basically have 3 excursion-booking options:

  1. Through the cruise ship (beforehand or while on board)
  2. Independently with an excursion company beforehand
  3. Directly with an independent tour company once you’ve debarked at the port

Here’s where you can find the excursions for each destination on a few of the major cruise lines: 

Just navigate to your ports to see the list of available excursions available there as well as any age requirements, price and a brief description of what is included.

A few tips and things to note:

Excursions purchased through your ship are pricier (sometimes more than double) the cost of purchasing independently. The benefit is that you’re guaranteed not to be stranded if something unfortunate happens and you’re late returning to the ship. The con (outside of possible cost) is that it’s often more crowded.

So far, we’ve done excursions booked independently and have never had a problem getting back to the port on time. On our past 2 cruises we took excursions through the cruise lines (Royal Caribbean and Norwegian) and had an enjoyable time on both.

We have yet to visit a port that doesn’t have independent tour operators, taxis, excursion companies etc right at the pier just waiting for all the cruise ship passengers who don’t yet have plans. If you choose not to plan beforehand, you’re not out of luck.

Traveling with a family, I would recommend booking ahead of time, whether independently or via the cruise line’s website just so you are certain there is something to accommodate your group.

Four things to consider with cruise excursions as a family:

1.  Consider your children’s age/temperament

Your children’s ages determines a lot of what you can do at each port.  Does your child require a stroller? What can and can’t your child do? Are there any fears to be concerned with? Will they need a nap? Can they handle long bus rides? Keep the needs of the children in your group top of mind when choosing excursions. When you look through the excursion descriptions they will let you know if it is completely unsuitable for children. (ie: cave tubing in Belize)

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2.  Consider breaking into groups

If your group is split on what to do, try splitting up to satisfy everyone. Yes the trip is about togetherness, but doing separate activities allows you to have fun stories to tell when you’re enjoying quality time together back on board the ship. This works well if your family has a mix of risk-taking adventurers and those with more tame sensibilities. Also it’s a great option if there’s a large mix of ages. (I secretly look forward to the day my daughter enjoys shopping and spa days so we can do that while the boys go off gallivanting.)
3. Consider staying on board

At each port most people (I’m talking 90% or more!) get off the ship to explore the destination. If you’re at a port you have visited several times, or have no interest in…or just want the ship to yourself, you may want to consider staying on board. You and your family will be able to enjoy all the ship has to offer with no lines, no waiting, and no drama. I first stayed on board on our Bahamas cruise last year and we tried again a few months ago with the kids in St. Thomas. Felt luxurious having an empty ship and no wait for anything.

4.  Consider your budget

Paying for a group excursion is a lot pricier than paying for a party of two. If budget factors into your vacation plans then choose an option where kids under a certain age are free or at a very reduced rate. You may also want to consider chartering your own excursion if your group is 6-8 passengers or more. It may turn out to be more economical. Some vendors will even work with you on the price and you have the bonus on being able to tailor your experience to exactly what your family wants to do.

Remember: There is no need to purchase an excursion at all. You can stay on board, or just walk around the port.

Stay tuned for How to Cruise with Kids (Part 4):

Life On Board Your Cruise Ship

 

How to Cruise with Kids (Part 2): All About The Kids Club

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(Click Here for: How to Cruise With Kids Part 1)

Cruising is the perfect vacation option for families. You are able to have time together as a family, explore different countries, eat great food, have tons of fun together and separately. Parents can have together time (or solo time) away from kids thanks to the awesome kids programs.

I’ve been asked so many questions about the kids programs on Royal and Norwegian so here are my answers, info and tips. But first, our experience:

We have only used the children’s facilities on two ships: Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas and Norwegian Escape. On Royal, Rohan was 11 months old and we made use of the Royal Babies program. On Norwegian, we used the Norwegian Splash Academy for Rohan (age 3) and the Guppies program for Kaya (age 2). On the first day of our cruise I was sure to visit with the staff for all age groups, and tour the facility so I could better answer questions in the future. We have yet to try Carnival and other cruise lines, but when we do I’ll update this to include them.

Is my baby too young/old?

Babies can cruise starting at 6 months of age. Up until recent years, the only option for children under 3 were in-room babysitting services. Now, babies 6 months through 2 years old have programs on board just for them. On Royal there is the Royal Babies & Tots program, and on Norwegian it was the Guppies program.

From age 3 – 17 your children can participate in the main “kids club” offerings. They are grouped by age and have activities catered to their level.




Is it expensive?

Age 3+ is free!

On Royal, it was $8/hour for the Royal Babies program. On Norwegian we paid $20 per session for Kaya. The session is just under 2 hours. So at night we put her in from 7pm-8:50 session and she stayed for the 9pm -10:50 session, but we picked her up at 10:30 when we picked up Ro.

After 10:30pm the Splash Academy for 3 years and up charges a fee. I didn’t ask what that price was, though.

What kind of activities do they have?

For Rohan in Royal Babies they had tons of Fisher Price toys, and would read to the babies, and sing songs. For Rohan there wasn’t much of a “curriculum” just lots of free play with heavy interaction from the staff. So few children were in the program that it was 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of staff to kids.

The Guppies (0-2) program on Norwegian had so much planned for the kids each session. We dropped Kaya only at night from 7pm to 10:30pm. During that time she did active games, singing, storytime, arts & crafts, had snacks and free play with the blocks/puzzles (her fave). We received a printout each time we picked her up which logged her diaper changes, feeding, activities down to her mood during each activity! (ie: loved 3 little pigs story, was excited for puzzles, disengaged during beauty and the beast storytime, focused during painting, two wet diapers, not hungry…) We got beautiful art each night from Kaya’s program as well:

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The Splash Academy Turtles (3-5 years) did lots of active games, songs, building, toy time, got face painted, had story time and always had a fun theme that ran through the day. On fairy tale day and pirate day the kids paraded through the ship (indoors, not near the exterior of the ship) for us parents and other passengers to ooh ahh and aww over them.

Older kids played age appropriate games, have video game time, and “chill out” style areas to enjoy each others company and feel “cool” and less like they’re being babysat. 🙂 The oldest group (14-17 I believe) can check themselves in and out of the program, come and go as they please, and had a teen club all to themselves.

What if my kid doesn’t like it?

It’s not a mandatory program. If your child doesn’t like it, they do not have to go. Additionally, if you’re nervous about their experience you can request a beeper (no matter your child’s age) and have the staff beep you if your child is crying, or acting up, or asks to go back to their parents.

Is there video or a way to keep tabs on the children?

The beeper mentioned above is the only way for the staff to contact you. You can always call and check in on how your child is doing, or go by the kids club and spy out like I did. 🙂 There is no video of the kids club area for parents to monitor their child. Be sure you let the staff know what part of the ship you’ll be, so if they do need to reach you, they can.

Is it safe?

Yes. The baby areas on both Royal and Norwegian were locked up and had 2 barriers to entry for folks who weren’t the child’s parents. The kiddie area itself is on the inside of the ship, so unruly sprinting kids cant go running/climbing/falling anywhere but inside the designated child areas.

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 What is the staff like?

On the two ships we’ve used the children’s facilities on, the staff has been awesome. The Royal Nursery staff were so sweet and gentle, and had such a calming vibe to them. The Norwegian Guppies staff seemed to really love babies, and had lots of tricks up their sleeves to quickly calm fussy kids.

The kids club staff had energy for days…no…weeks. They had that fun/gentle leadership quality that was able to hype the kids up for their activities, and also guide them and be obeyed. We went to visit the Splash Academy on Norwegian Escape before we registered ro, I went to the bathroom and came back and Ro was pushing one of the staff, Curly, around in his stroller and they were both laughing hysterically. They were a well oiled machine and a fun group, just perfect for kids.

Did your kids like it?

Yes, they loved it. We didn’t use the kids club all day. We used them only in the evening after we fed the kids dinner. I think if we tried to send Rohan to all the sessions (On Norwegian it’s 10am-12pm, 3pm-5pm, and 7pm-10:30pm +late night sessions $$) he may have pushed back, plus…we wanted to spend the days with the kids.

There was only one night where Ro said he didn’t want to go, and that was the day after he had a crash into another boy and hit his head. When we asked why he didn’t want to go, he said it was because he didn’t want to bump his head again. So, other than that night, they went and loved it. Kaya was really into the art work, and Rohan loved the parades, face painting and active play.

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Can they watch the kids while we are on an excursion?

That wasn’t something we were interested in so I didn’t ask when we were on board, but I did just find out that they do offer that service on Norwegian. You do have to pay for the hours that the child would be in their care outside of their normal hours mentioned above. They will feed the kids and everything for you while you’re out enjoying your excursion. I didn’t ask about the service on Royal.

Do they have in-room babysitting options? 

On Norwegian they don’t offer it, which was a major bummer for us. On Royal Caribbean they offer it for (i think) $8 or $10/hour. We will make use of this service on our next Royal Caribbean cruise for sure. You just have to reserve in advance so they can figure out scheduling.

Do they feed / change / soothe the children?

In the Splash Academy for older kids they do not feed the kids. And you children have to be potty trained 3 year olds in order to attend. They do soothe them, like when Ro and the other kid crashed into each other. Both cried and both were soothed. In the Guppy program they will feed per your directions, change diapers and soothe and even rock your child to sleep.

Will they let my children stay together if in different age groups?

I’ve heard of this….but it wasn’t allowed for us on Norwegian Escape. (I asked just in hopes, even though Kai isn’t fully potty trained and couldn’t stay with her brother even if they made the age exception.) I can’t speak for Royal or other lines. I have only heard stories from other cruisers on cruisecritic saying that their children of various ages were able to stay together in one of the age groups.

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a separate little free-play area for young kids near the kids club and baby club

What do they provide?

The Splash Academy provides everything. One day, they did tell us to bring Rohan dressed in pjs for the pajama party and parade. Other than that, we never had to supply a thing. They weren’t allowed to give him juice or snacks though. Only water. So if he was hungry he would’ve had to wait for pickup or have us found. Kids were encouraged to come with no toys, etc. (They did allow Rohan to bring in his Elmo lovey though.  PS: There was a staff member on board named Elmo too)

The Guppies provided everything for activities, but we had to bring Kai’s sippy cups, diapers (they had wipes), snacks, lovey.

On Royal they have a great program where you can get a big bag of toys for your children to use in the stateroom and while on board. It’s free, and you can swap out the toys for a different bag if your child gets bored. You just return it on the last night. (You can ask for cleaning wipes – if you didn’t pack your own- when you pick up the bag so you can wipe down the toys… if you’re a weirdo like me)

Any tips?

  • Register your children for the kids club on day one even if you dont think you’ll use it
  • Always bring your kid to the club well fed, hydrated and freshly pottied
  • Visit the baby/kids area with your children and stay and play a bit to get them used to the area and staff (especially if they are not in day care)
  • Make use of the ‘free play’ areas when kids club is not in session for age appropriate baby playtime
  • Be honest, upfront, and vocal about what you do and don’t want your children exposed to/doing/sleeping/eating etc. They will cater to your requests.
  • Trust the staff and treat them kindly. They’re really good with children (and parents).
  • Pick up a bit earlier than the closing time to avoid a long line of parents waiting for pickup
  • Have a fun activity waiting for your child to entice them to leave because they won’t want to.

Any other kids club questions send em my way!

Cruising With Kids on Norwegian Escape – Cruise Recap

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We love to cruise. This was John and my 6th cruise together, Rohan’s second, and Kaya’s first. Our very first cruise as a family of four! This sailing was a bit of a last minute surprise (scary for an planner like myself) and it turned out to be absolutely perfect. (Oh, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in our How to Cruise with Kids series)

Here’s our Norwegian Escape Cruise Recap.

We sailed out of Miami on the Norwegian Escape for a 7 day eastern caribbean itinerary. We had 3 days at sea, and 3 ports: St. Thomas USVI, Tortola British VI, and Nassau, Bahamas.

family in tortola 2

We drove to the pier and used Safe Cruise Parking to keep our car for the week (totally recommend them, btw. Last place took forever to take us to pier and never came and picked us up after the cruise, we had to taxi back to the parking lot!) A short drive from the lot to the pier, and 20 minutes after that we were getting on board. The embarkation process was super quick and easy. (We arrived at the pier around 1 btw)

boarding ship

Our cabin was 10800 a mini-suite with balcony and it was juuuuust a hair bigger than the balconies we normally get on Royal Caribbean. The bathroom was cuter though. This was the first time we had a room that accommodated 4 and the kids LOVED the murphy bed thingy that came down from the ceiling.

cruise cabin

Kai slept on bottom bunk, and Ro slept up top. John and I shared the king bed (not pictured). Everything I (over)packed fit nicely in the closets and drawers and our empty suitcases fit under the bed easily…with space left over for the kids to play under there as well. The balcony was standard/small with 2 chairs and a mini table just big enough for a couple cups of coffee and maybe a bowl of fruit.

kids on cruise ship balcony

The ship was big and beautiful!  It was sparkley! The Escape is the newest ship in the Norwegian fleet and has so much to offer for any style of cruiser. I met a lot of solo travelers on board. NCL has studio cabins to accommodate 1 person traveling alone. We loved all the random places to just chill out and hang as a family or solo. The coffee (and cupcake) shoppe saw us a few times a day. There was a mall on board for anything you want, and a great photo gallery to check out all the shots taken of you while on board. I loved how grand some of the touches were.

norwegian escape

As a family with two little littles we were excited to see all the family focused events. We took part in the family dinner which had face painting, build your own cupcakes, balloon animals, and hoola hooping. We didn’t attend the shows but we heard there were lots of clean comedians and shows. (There are adult-only options as well.) We made use of the gym, gym classes, mini golf, ropes course, all the slides, the pool, and the kids water park area.

gym class ncl escape

Though poorly attended, the total body conditioning class was great (and instructor was a hottie) and had me sore the next day. The gym facilities were sparkling clean, smelled great (not sweaty), and was a hair cooler than other indoor spaces on the ship. It was large enough to accommodate several cruisers at once, but I never saw it even 1/2 full on the times I went to work out.

norwegian escape mini golf   family dinner party norwegian escape

The kids loved the ropes course more than I expected. Kaya was the smallest one to do it, and she wasn’t afraid after her first few steps. She and Ro even ziplined like pros. Unfortunately, John and I didn’t make it on the adult ropes course. But next time….

norwegian escape kids ropes course

Some disappointments outside of service, were the library. We are used to grabbing a book at random, and on our last cruise with Ro we got a little pile of books to read to him during the week. This library was all locked up with random open hours for taking books out. We didn’t make use of the adult-only zone Spice H20 but I visited and it was lovely…though only a hair quieter than the main pool area…which was SUPER loud at all times and always had a million towels on chairs and nowhere to sit. The itinerary dragged a bit as well, but that’s not a big deal. We’ll choose a different itinerary layout in the future.

on board norwegian escape

We enjoyed most of the meals we ate. There are 4 restaurants and the buffet included in your cruise price, and then there are a la carte restaurants and cover charge restaurants. We mostly took the kids to dinner at the buffet, then dropped them to the kids club, then we had a grown up dinner at one of the included restaurants. We tried one a la carte: Pinchos Tapas restaurant (so good!) and Moderno Churrascarria because: meat. (Also really delicious) If you’re not familiar, Churrascaria is that Brazialian style of restaurant where you have your apps at a deliicous buffet, and then you start getting bombarded with various grilled meats brought over in never ending succession and carved at your table until you tell them to stop. (John’s heaven.) Service was a mixed bag. Some folks were great and some looked like they’d rather be anywhere but here.

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Roey’s Buffet Plate

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Our ports of call were St Thomas, Nassau and Tortola. In St. Thomas we stayed on board and enjoyed having the ship all to ourselves. We used the empty pool and play ground without fighting for a sunbed, we enjoyed the restaurants with no wait and the buffet with no lines. (We stayed on board the Majesty of the Seas when it was in the private island last year, it was the best decision ever.)

st thomas from balcony

In Tortola we took an excursion through Norwegian. We booked a tour that took us through the mountains of Tortola and to the 2nd highest point on the island. We then took the winding tour back down the mountains and to the beautiful Cane Bay beach.

dani tortola

It was informative and fun thanks to our tour guide, Henry. I’m surprised at how well the kids did on the jitney tour. Only one meltdown to speak of:

kaya cry

In Nassau we spent the day at Atlantis thanks to some blogger perks. I have a full recap/review coming, but I gotta tell you, I LOVED that place and so did the kids. John even said he wants to come back to spend a few days there. Atlantis just had so much to do for kids and adults and it was gorgeous!

atlantis dig atlantis with kids

We found ourselves doing a lot of comparing to Royal Caribbean as it’s what we’ve cruised together on 4 out of 5 times before this one. A few things were better on Norwegian, some weren’t and a few were equal. Overall we had an amazing time. All four of us! We are already talking about when we’ll be able to fit in our “annual family cruise” in next year’s travel calendar.

family silly kids

Any questions about the ship or cruising in general, please send em my way! I could talk about cruising all day long.

The “How to Cruise with Kids” series continues next with “All About the Kids Clubs”