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What to Expect on a Royal Caribbean International Cruise on Your Family Vacation

What to Expect on a Royal Caribbean International Cruise on Your Family Vacation

This super kid-friendly cruise line offers the ultimate vacation for the whole family!

When you think cruising, you may initially think of grandparents shuffling from one planned activity to the next, between visiting the all-day buffet for a bite to eat. If that’s the case, you’ve never experienced a super family-friendly cruise line, like Royal Caribbean International. And with a variety of family-friendly cruises departing from the New York area, a Royal Caribbean cruise a great option for families who want to go on vacation—whether for a few days or for a week or more.

While the Royal Caribbean cruises available from Cape Liberty, NJ, include itineraries to the Bahamas, Bermuda, New England, and Canada, the cruise line offers trips across the globe. I was lucky enough to cruise the Mediterranean on Royal Caribbean International’s newest, largest ship in the Oasis Class: Symphony of the Seas (Alexa and Carlos PenaVega and their son Ocean were named Royal Caribbean’s first-ever godfamily for this ship). Symphony of the Seas now sails from Miami on seven-night cruises to the Caribbean—and it’s slated to begin trips to Royal Caribbean’s private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay in spring 2019.

If you’re on the fence about cruising for your next family vacation, they’re a great option. From the variety of activities and food options to the numerous countries and cities you can visit in one trip (I visited three countries and six cities in a week), you’re sure to please everyone in your family, from kids to grandparents in one family vacation.

Here’s what you can expect from a Royal Caribbean International cruise on your next family vacation.

kids climbing wall symphony of the seas
In addition to two rock-climbing walls, Sypmhony of the Seas has this climbing structure for younger climbers, located on the Boardwalk.


Royal Caribbean Cruises are available to destinations world-wide.

If you’re not sure where you want to visit for an extended period of time with your kids—or you simply have too many places you want to visit—a cruise may be just the option for you! My Mediterranean cruise allowed me to visit Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca in Spain, Provence in France, and Florence, Rome, and Naples in Italy.

In addition to the four- and seven-night cruises to the Caribbean, Canada, and New England from the New York area, Royal Caribbean offers numerous length cruises to more than 260 destinations across six continents (these cruises depart from ports around the world). The beauty of a cruise? You often get a day in each port and while you’re traveling to the next destination, you can enjoy the ships many activities and amenities (and get a good night’s sleep!).

With the number of things to do on the ship, you’ll never be bored.

Each night on the ship, you’ll receive a Cruise Compass, outlining where you’ll be docking the next day with information about the area, plus it features the Daily Planner full of activities all day long if you choose stay onboard.

All Royal Caribbean ships feature Adventure Ocean, the youth programming, which has separate groups and play areas for Royal Babies and Tots (younger than 3), Aquanauts for ages 3-5, Explorers for ages 6-8, Voyagers for ages 9-11, and the Living Room for ages 12-17. Each area has games, toys, and more to keep kids entertained every minute they’re at Adventure Ocean.  

Ultimate Abyss
The Ultimate Abyss, a 10-story slide on Symphony of the Seas, is the tallest slide at sea.

Symphony of the Seas
features so many things to do when you’re on the ship, there are too many offerings to list here, including sporting activities, a mini water park and pools, a comedy club, and movies on the big screen. The can’t-miss highlights?

  • Battle for Planet Z, glow-in-the-dark laser tag
  • FlowRider, a 40-foot-long surfing simulator
  • The Perfect Storm, three-story water slides including Typhoon and Cyclone
  • Teen Disco, a spot for 12- to 17-year-olds only (this means keep out, Mom and Dad!)
  • Boardwalk, which features a carousel, arcade games, and the Aqua Theatre (you’ll definitely want to see the water acrobatics on display during HiRO)
  • Zip lining nine decks above the Boardwalk
  • Ultimate Abyss, dubbed the tallest slide at sea
  • Live shows, including Hairspray, ice-skating productions, and Flight, an original show chronicling the milestone in aviation
  • Escape the Rubicon, an escape room

There are fun excursions for a variety of interests at each destination.

From adventurous tours and family-friendly day trips to foodie field trips and excursions that are accessible to those with disabilities, your family will find something to do at each port of call on your cruise. Excursions are an extra fee, and costs vary depending on what you choose to do.

In Palma de Mallorca, I explored Museo La Granja de Exporles, a 17th-century mansion turned museum, and learned about traditional crafts and the culture of the area. In Provence, I took in the panorama from the top of the cliffs at Calanques National Park and fell in love with the quaint fishing village of Cassis. In Florence, I participated in a walking tour of the city before exploring on my own, and made a pit stop in Pisa on the way back to the ship. Rome featured Gladiator School, amazing gnocchi, and a stop St. Peter’s Basilica. Finally, in Naples, I checked off a bucket list item of walking through Pompeii, learned to make authentic Napolitano pizza, and did some shopping in Salerno.    

cassis france
A view of Cassis, France from the top of the cliffs at Calanques National Park

A few tips for excursions:

  • Book in advance to guarantee a spot in the excursions you want.  
  • If you have really young children, you can leave them onboard the ship in the Adventure Ocean youth programs. There were couples in some of my excursions who did this; they said their kids had so much fun on the ship, they didn’t even think twice that Mom and Dad weren’t there (one kid didn’t even want to leave when Dad went to pick her up).
  • If you’re not sure about spending the extra money on an excursion, research the port of call to see if there are things to do in the area. When the excursion in Naples returned, the ship was still in port for a few hours, so I explored the city where we were docked.

Even picky eaters will find delicious things to eat on the ship.

Symphony of the Seas has more dining options than you’ll know what to do with—and your Daily Planner outlines the hours of each. The Windjammer Marketplace (buffet), Main Dining Room (select menu), El Loco Fresh (Mexican buffet) and Solarium Bistro (buffet) are all included and have options even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy. These are where I ate onboard meals most frequently, but there are a handful of restaurants on Symphony of the Seas that cost extra—and are totally worth it.

For a seafood dinner, Hooked serves New England-style fare. From crab cakes and sandwiches to steamed lobster and lobster mac and cheese, your seafood-loving family will find something delicious to indulge in eating. The calamari and raw, fresh-shucked oysters were a hit, and don’t forget the classic Maine treat, a whoopie pie, for dessert!

If steak is more your style, Chops Grille, a hallmark Royal Caribbean restaurant, brings a contemporary twist to traditional steakhouse offerings. And if you’re the lone fish-eater in a family of carnivores, the menu at Chops also features grilled branzino (a European sea bass) and shrimp. Don’t miss out on the asparagus and end with the delicious cheesecake! Inside tip: The cheesecake on the room services menu is the same as the one served at Chops (read: Indulge in sweet treat while lounging in your cabin.)

Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver features Tuscan-inspired plates created by the popular celebrity chef. You can’t go wrong with the bruschetta and arancini appetizers, the truffle tagliatelle was perfect, and, of course, it isn’t an Italian meal without tiramisu! If you’re having trouble choosing between the pasta choices, you can order half servings to two dishes (but be warned: a half serving was plenty to eat, especially if you want room for dessert!) 

mushroom meringue
The meringue mushrooms at Wonderland were a delicious—and creative—treat!

The one restaurant on Symphony of the Seas that I wish had a brick-and-mortar location in New York City? Wonderland. The experiential, imaginative dining experience brings Alice in Wonderland to life. There’s even a Mad Hatter roaming the restaurant, joking with the diners, never breaking character. The meal starts with painting the menu to see what’s available in the elements of sun, ice, fire, earth, and sea. And each dish is served in an imaginative way: Think mushroom-shaped meringue for dessert, liquid lobster, and vegetables that look like they’re planted in a garden.

If all of the above isn’t more than enough to keep your brood busy and having fun on a family vacation, Symphony of the Seas also has a spa, fitness center, rock climbing, swimming pools and a mini water park for young children, mini golf, and basketball courts. Wherever you cruise, you and your kids are sure to have a good time—the hardest part will be deciding which cruise itinerary is right for your family.

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Katelin Walling

Author: Katelin Walling is the former editorial director for NYMetroParents. She has been writing about parenting, health, finance, education, fun things to do in NYC and the surrounding area, and more for nearly 10 years. She also has 20+ years of child care experience and was a babysitter in NYC for 8 years. Katelin graduated from the University of Maine in 2011 and attended the NYU Summer Publishing Institute during the summer of 2011. To unplug in her free time, she can often be found reading, knitting (or general crafting), or whipping up a vegan treat—all with a cup of coffee nearby. See More

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