Archive for the ‘Stateroom Selection’ Category

2011 Family Cruise Vacation Shopping Guide

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Tips For Finding A Family Friendly Cruise

Making memories

There is no better remedy for combating the short, cold days of winter than planning a family cruise vacation. For some reason, just looking at itineraries and ship diagrams is enough to lift the spirits. But before long what started as a fun search for your next family vacation quickly becomes a nightmare as data-overload sends you over the edge.

To help keep things in balance, Family Cruise Advisor has put together a few tips to help make the cruise buying process a little more user friendly.

Think Value, Not Price

Disney Dream It

Although price is a good motivator, value is a better indicator that a cruise will be a success.

Consider what is included in the cruise price.

  • Does the ship have adequate care for infants? Some ships charge for babysitting infants because they do not have facilities for babies.
  • Does the ship offer kids programming for the ages you need?
  • Are soft drinks and juice included in the price? Disney Cruise Line has generous soda fountains and juice available around the clock. Other cruise lines do not.

Consider A Slightly Older Ship, But Watch The Size

When looking at price make sure you are comparing apples-to-apples. New ships typically have a higher price tag than slightly older ships.

Although Royal Caribbean International’s new Oasis-class ship Allure of the Seas has a lot of great features, pricing is significantly lower on Liberty of the Seas and her sisters in the Freedom-class. The cruise experience is almost the same: great kids programs, specialty restaurants, surf simulator, rock climbing wall, ice-skating rink, arcade, etc.

Royal Caribbean

Speaking of Royal Caribbean, watch the size of the vessel you select. For example, there are many features that are not available on Monarch of the Seas due to her smaller size. This is an example of too much of a good thing. Savvy shoppers will notice some great cruise fares on Monarch of the Seas, but this ship does not have the bells and whistles found on the larger ships in the fleet.

When to spend money for a cruise on a new ship

Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship Disney Dream is fetching top dollar for a product that is completely different than Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. The updated technology and innovations on Disney Dream are well worth the additional investment in vacation dollars.

Destination

Disney Cruise Line

In most cases when cruising as a family, the ship is the destination. However, families must also consider where the ship sails. Popular family cruise destinations for 2011 are: Europe, Alaska, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Depending on the age of your children and their tolerance for long flights, a realistic destination will become obvious. I say go for gold and head to Europe. But I am also the same person that took a three-month old baby on an six-hour flight to Hawaii.

Show Me The Money!

A lot of people think that if they wait long enough, cruise lines will offer deep discounts. Although this could be the case, when traveling with a family it is better to plan ahead to avoid disappointment.

Remember that there is little risk to putting down a deposit in advance. In most cases (Disney concierge class suites exempt) deposits are refundable. Final payment is due 90 days before the cruise. Some travel agencies and cruise lines will guarantee the price, which means that if the cruise fare goes down before final payment, you are entitled to getting the lower price.

Family Cruise Basics

Allure Of The Seas Accommodations

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Suites and balcony staterooms on Allure of the Seas

There are many stateroom accommodations available on Allure of the Seas suitable for family cruise vacations. Suites will give your family the most space. But how do you choose the right suite? Family Cruise Advisor is here to help.

New suite categories launched by Royal Caribbean International on Oasis class ships (Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas) are:

Read more about luxury upgrades at Allure Of The Seas Luxury Stateroom Options For Family Cruisers

Loft Suites on Allure of the Seas offer plenty of space for families

Royal Loft Suite

Plan to be treated like Royalty. The Royal Loft Suite spans two floors with separate bedrooms, private balcony with Jacuzzi, flat screen TVs, wet bar, two dining areas (indoors and outdoors), and Baby Grand piano.

The largest of all lofts on Allure of the Seas, the Royal Loft Suite can connect to a Crown Loft Suite for additional room to accommodate a total of ten guests.

The master bedroom and bath are on the second level. The bath features a tub, shower, two sinks and bidet.

On the main level, there are four twin beds that can be converted to Queens as well as a bath with shower. The Living room sofa converts to double bed.

The private balcony features a whirlpool and dining area.

1,524 square feet, balcony 843 square feet.

Sky Loft Suite

Contemporary, urban lofts that can connect for larger groups. Featuring two floors, private balconies, indoor and outdoor dining areas as well as floor-to-ceiling, double-height windows.

The master bedroom and bath are on the second level. The bedroom features two twin beds that can be converted to a queen. The bath has a shower for two. On the main level is a bath with shower and a sofa that converts to a double bed.

722 square feet, balcony 410 square feet

AquaTheater Suite – Deck 8, 9, or 10

There are six AquaTheater Suites on Allure of the Seas that overlook the Boardwalk and AquaTheater.

Amenities include private wrap-around balconies, outdoor oceanfront dining areas for six, and an outdoor bar for entertaining.

There are two bedrooms that can convert to a queen, with two Pullman beds.

There is also a vanity with a chair in each bedroom, living area with double convertible sofa, dining room, marble entry, entertainment center, two bathrooms – master bath with tub.

823 square feet, balcony 772 square feet

Crown Loft Suite

The Crown Loft Suite is a two-level urban loft with contemporary décor with private balconies, guest bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, and panoramic views of the ocean.

The master bedroom and bath are located on the second level. The bedroom has two twin beds that can be converted to a queen. The bath has a shower for two.

On the main level is a bath with shower and a living room sofa that converts to a double bed.

545 square feet, balcony 114 square feet.

Other Popular Royal Caribbean suite categories include:

Royal Suite on Allure of the Seas sleeps 4 and has one bedroom and two baths

Royal Suite

Allure of the Seas’ Royal Suites offer separate bedrooms, balconies, whirlpool bathtubs, and some even offer baby grand pianos.

The suite features a a master bedroom with queen bed and sitting area and a bath with tub, shower, two sinks and bidet.

The living room sofa converts to a double bed. Guest bathroom with shower, entertainment center, dining room with dry bar, piano. Private balcony with Jacuzzi and dining area.

1,275 square feet, balcony 335 square feet

Royal Family Suite

These large suites offer two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living area with a sofa bed. In order to book the Family Suite, you need a minimum of 5 guests in your party. There are two bedrooms that  can convert to a queen, and two Pullman beds.

There is a vanity with chair in each bedroom, living area with double convertible sofa, marble entry, entertainment center, two bathrooms – master bath with tub. Private balcony with table and chairs.

Can accommodate up to 6 guests.

580 square feet,  balcony 238 square feet

Presidential Family Suite

The Presidential Family Suite on Allure of the Seas has room enough for 14. There must be a minimum of 8 guests on the booking to book the Presidential Family Suite.

The Presidential Family Suite offers four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a private balcony and a living area with a sofa bed. Dual Master bedrooms with twin beds that can convert to a queen. There are two Master baths with tubs.

Also featured are two bedrooms with convertible twin beds/Pullman beds. One bedroom features a bathroom with shower. The guest bathroom is with shower only.

The Presidential Family Suite features floor-to-ceiling glass windows that face the ocean. The spacious balcony provides enough room for the entire group to enjoy the outdoor dining area, with private whirlpool tub.

1,142 square feet, balcony 476 square feet

Owner’s Suite

These luxurious suites offer separate living areas, private balconies and a mini bar. Two twin beds that can convert to a queen. Bathroom with tub, shower and two sinks, marble entry, large closets, living area with table and sofa. Private balcony with table and chairs. The Owner’s Suite on Allure of the Seas can sleep up to four and can accommodate a rollaway bed and/or Pack ‘n Play.

556 square feet, balcony 243 square feet

Grand Suite

The Grand Suite offers a comfortable bedroom, a living area and a private balcony. Two twin beds that can convert to a queen. Private bathroom with tub and  two sinks, marble entry, large closets, sitting area with table and sofa.

371 square feet, balcony 105 square feet

Grand Suites and above will have access to the Concierge Club

For the cost-conscious, consider a Junior Suite. Junior suites on Allure of the Seas offer more space than the balcony staterooms. These suites feature a comfortable bedroom, small sitting area and a private balcony.

Note, however, that the Junior Suites on Allure of the Seas does not  include the services of the Concierge Club as a suite amenity.

Junior suites feature two twin beds that can convert to a Queen, with a bathroom with tub, and sitting area with table and sofa.

287 square feet, balcony 80 square feet

Balcony Staterooms on Allure (and Oasis) of the Seas

  • Boardwalk View Balcony These staterooms offer inward facing accommodations overlooking the two open-air neighborhoods. All of the Balcony Boardwalk staterooms offer a sitting area (some with sofa bed), minibar and private balcony overlooking the amusements and entertainment down on the Boardwalk.  The staterooms feature two twin beds that can convert into a queen, boardwalk view balcony, sitting area, and a private bathroom. 182 square feet, balcony 52 square feet
  • Central Park View Balcony – The Balcony Central Park staterooms offer a sitting area (some with sofa bed), minibar and private balcony overlooking the restaurants and gardens of the Central Park neighborhood. Two twin beds that can convert to a queen), Central Park view balcony, sitting area, and a private bathroom. 182 square feet, balcony 52 square feet
  • Family Balcony Oceanview – The Family Balcony Oceanview staterooms can accommodate up to six people. There must be a minimum of 5 people in the group to make a reservation in the Family Balcony Oceanview category. There are two twin beds, sofa and/or Pullman beds, and private balcony. Other amenities include a minibar and spacious sitting area. Verify if the cabin you select has a sofa or the Pullman layout. 271 square feet, balcony 82 square feet
  • Superior Oceanview Stateroom with Large Balcony – These staterooms offer a sitting area, vanity area and two twin beds. Private balcony and mini bar available in some configurations. Two twin beds that can convert to a queen), private balcony, sitting area, and bathroom. 182 square feet, balcony 80 square feet
  • Superior Ocean View Stateroom with BalconyThese staterooms offer a sitting area, vanity area, two twin beds, private balcony and mini bar. Two twin beds that can convert into a queen, private balcony, sitting area, and bathroom. 182 square feet, balcony 50 square feet

Learn more about Allure of the Seas

Family Cruise Insight: Getting The Most From Allure Of The Seas

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

The Carousel, in the neighborhood known as the Boardwalk, on Oasis (and soon, Allure) of the Seas

When she launches, Royal Caribbean International’s newest Oasis class ship, the Allure of the Seas, will be the largest purpose-built cruise ship in the world.  Dedicated family features and amenities are available to maximize your family cruise vacation.  To navigate through the many options, Family Cruise Advisor has put together this primer to help you get the most of a cruise on Allure of the Seas.

Meet Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas is sister to Oasis of the Seas. An architectural marvel at sea, she will span 16 decks, encompass 220,000 gross registered tons (GRT), carry 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,700 staterooms.

Allure of the Seas will embark on her maiden voyage in December when she will sail alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean 7-night itineraries from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Although the Caribbean ports-of-call are impressive, the ship is truly the destination.

Families Welcome!

Families will feel welcome onboard, and the shipboard experience has been designed to keep all members of the family engaged, entertained, fed, safe, active and happy. The trick for maximizing a successful family cruise vacation on Allure of the Seas is all in pre-planning.

Family cruisers are assaulted with a plethora of options when it comes to Allure of the Seas.

Accommodations

The first step in designing your family cruise vacation is to choose your stateroom wisely. As we have mentioned before in Family Cruising: Choosing The Right Stateroom, your choice of accommodations will play a significant role in your overall cruise experience.

On Allure of the Seas there are four types of accommodations that include 37 categories of rooms and suites. Families should think about booking one of the suites (see Allure Of The Seas Luxury Stateroom Options For Family Cruisers_. This touch of luxury on Allure of the Seas allows you to have more space and more importantly access to the Concierge Club.

When looking at the deck plan, make note of the available neighborhoods. Allure of the Seas is built around the concept of neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has a distinct theme: Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone. You may want to choose your cabin with consideration to the age of your children.

For example, if you have a toddler who is easily distracted, then choosing a Boardwalk View Balcony stateroom or a Central Park View Balcony stateroom might be loud during nap time.

Adventure Ocean – Your Ticket To Freedom When Cruising With Children

Although we all love our children, it is our vacation too. That is why cruising with our kids is a great way for everyone to have fun. The supervised youth programs on the Oasis-class vessels offer us parents a chance to have a break while our kids are safely playing with others their own age (see Family Cruise Advisor article about Age Minimums: The ABCs.)

Adventure Ocean is broken down into the following groups.

  • Aquanauts -Ages 3-5 Years
  • Explorers – Ages 6-8 Years
  • Voyagers – Ages 9-11 Years
  • Navigators – Ages 12-14 Years
  • Teens – Ages 15-17 Years

While Adventure Ocean is a complimentary program open to all junior cruisers, to participate children must be three years of age and potty-trained (no pull-ups or diapers). There’s also group babysitting for infants at $8 per hour. Space available.

In general the drop off program has the following hours of operation:

  • 9:00 a.m. – Noon
  • Closed for lunch
  • Open 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m
  • Evening session 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. for the younger kids
  • On port days the hours may vary.

Take advantage of the Lunch & Play program on Sea Days. This program has a fee of $7.95, but it gives parents a chance to leave their children with a youth counselor for lunch and activities.

Keeping Track Of Your Children On A Mega Ship

On Allure of the Seas, parents can keep track of their children utilizing the geotracking bracelet system. This feature, offered by Royal Caribbean International’s Adventure Ocean program, is a free service for all children registered with the kids club. At any point during your cruise, you can ask the Adventure Ocean staff to inform you of your child’s whereabouts. On a ship the size of Allure of the Seas, this is a handy feature when trying to locate your child. Parents may elect to rent their own personal tracking device for $17.50 (and no it does not work for tracking spouses.) See related article on Avid Cruiser, Video: World’s Largest Ship, World’s Largest iPhone?

The optional tracking device allows parents to rent a modified iPhone, which will show the position of the target (your child) on the ship. This is a helpful way to easily know where your child is at any time.  Special note: Don’t damage the device (let it get wet at the pool), because you will be charged $150 in the event of damage or if the device is not returned.

Family Dining Tips On Allure Of The Seas

Allure of the Seas will have more than 24 dining venues. Most families will elect to dine in the Adagio Dining Room. This is Allure of the Seas’ three-tier main restaurant. Choices of dining times are: flexible My Time Dining, and traditional assigned seating (early or late.)

A new twist on the traditional dining time is the My Family Time Dining option that is available for guests at the early assigned dinner time.  This option allows you to check your child in with a counselor from Adventure Ocean in the main level of the dining room. Children signed up for this program will be served their meals within 45 minutes, and then they will be able to go directly to kids club from the dining room. My Family Time Dining is a real time saver for parents who are left to linger for the remainder of their meal.

Another dining feature on Allure of the Seas will be the Character Breakfast with a DreamWorks icon.  Ask about this unique program, free of charge, once on board.

The Allure Of Entertainment

Let’s face it, most of our kids are only going to be mildly impressed with the grand theater production shows or the melodic guitar playing in Rita’s Cantina. What kids want is the Rock Climbing Wall, FlowRider (see Avid Cruiser video, Fun FlowRider Falls On Oasis Of The Seas), Zip Line and Ice Skating. Tip: To beat the rush, plan to print out Onboard Activity Waivers before you sail.

All guests are required to have a signed waiver on file to participate on the Rock Climbing Wall, FlowRider, Zip Line or Ice Skating. If the waiver is completed ahead of time it will save time, because the information is preloaded on the SeaPass card. Cruisers can access waivers through the Cruise Personalizer on Royal Caribbean’s website.

Not so interested in all the active sports? No worries. Entertainment is second to none on Allure of the Seas. Exclusive to Allure of the Seas is the DreamWorks Experience. Guests will enjoy 3D movies, ice and aqua shows, and as mentioned, special Character breakfasts and more.

Remember one of the advantages of booking a suite? Preferred seating. Your personal concierge is more than happy to make arrangements for seats to all the shows.

Families sailing on Allure of the Seas will enjoy a host of industry firsts aimed at making a truly wonderful family cruise vacation.