As we cruised the Caribbean with Royal Caribbean Cruises, we talked to Martin Rissley, Hotel Director of Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, about cruising on the ship, the facilities on board, and the best routes for families...
Martin: Cruising had a reputation of being somewhat boring, exclusive, and expensive –but this has categorically changed. The Oasis of the Seas is very family orientated, though. The entertainment and dining options are all created with the family in mind –we have matinee shows every day for example and each of the specialty dining options has a kid’s menu and are firmly welcome at any sitting.
This ship has everything a kid would want to do. To name but a few: flow riders, two climbing walls, a basketball court, table tennis, ice skating, kids clubs (up to age 17), swimming pools, shows. Then you add in the shore excursions when you get to a destination, and it is an incredibly active and fun holiday for the whole family.
Martin: The Adventure Ocean program has a full program for ages 3-11 - it's quite possible for lots of families to be involved in activities during a cruise. All the staff have Education Degrees and the aim is to foster friendship and education as well as fun.
The late Night Party Zone is a favourite with both kids and parents –the kids can stay late in the Adventure Ocean Club whilst the parents enjoy the many dining and entertainment options on board. Of course, it is a families’ personal preference as to whether they stay together or spend time in the Adventure Ocean area.
Martin: Absolutely yes, the three-generation group is now pretty commonplace. We are well set up for this with several hundred inter-connecting rooms. Grandparents will often have a quiet lunch together while the family goes on shore for an excursion, then the entire party gets together for a dinner and a show in the evening.
Martin: You can quite comfortably not spend anything on board and stick to the dining packages and activities that are free for all. None of our shows have any cover charges. Even our specialty dining options are great value –the most expensive option in our steak restaurant is $35 per person – that would be more like $125 in a London restaurant and three times more expensive in a hotel.
Leaving directly from UK and cruising in Europe is great for first time cruisers, as there's no need to worry about what to pack as there are no airline restrictions. But the Caribbean is really great. Yes, the flight is longer (8.5 hours to Miami) but the holiday as a whole is more exotic. People forget that the Caribbean is full of history and there is a lot for the kids to learn as well as do on board.
Martin: On this cruise we visit Mexico and an ‘absolute must’ is the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. It is a long day (10 hours) but the travel is part of the experience and the Mayan ruins are incredible. Chichen Itza is one of the most important archaeological sites on the Amercian continent and is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. The whole civilization is fascinating and kids will find it really interesting.
Martin: Haiti was an improvised country before the earthquake so it was devastating for the community when it happened. However, Royal Caribbean continued to visit – we are a large part of the economy here, as we built the port here in Labadee in partnership with the Haitian Government. During the aftermath of the earthquake we regularly supplied dozens of pallets of supplies including water, clothing and food. We did this in a low-key waybut it was important for us to be helping.
Martin: We have a full-blown hospital on board. Including crew members there is a whole ship of people so we need to be ready for any eventuality. The hospital has nine full-time staff and we can often react quicker and better than an on-shore hotel or destination could. Your kids couldn't be safer.
Martin: We love doing road trips, (maybe not surprising for a man who spends his life at sea). We travel to North America, with the kids packed in the car without ever having a plan but to just drive.