Photo Credit: Roni Lehti/AFP/Getty
I’m going to say it: Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Allure of the Seas, may be the best family vacation out there, especially if you’ve got young kids. The ship itself is gorgeous -- they’ve constructed seven “neighborhoods” including a shop-lined Royal Promenade, a café-lined Central Park and a Boardwalk that features a beautiful, hand-carved, working carousel (plan to spend a lot of time riding this again and again). There are also some crazy things you'd never expect on a cruise ship, like an ice rink. And it’s enormous -- currently the biggest cruise ship in the world, carrying 5,400 passengers. Look at it this way: You’ll burn off all those Pina Coladas walking to and from your stateroom throughout the day!
But what really makes this ship amazing is the stuff they’ve built and put in place just for kids. In addition to a new partnership with Dream Works Animation (which means the kids can hang out with Shrek and Fiona or the Penguins from Madagascar), the Allure and her sister ship, the Oasis of the Seas, have a nursery, which takes kids starting at 6 months. The fact that Royal Caribbean is now one of the only big lines other than Disney to feature childcare for infants is groundbreaking. This means, Mom and Dad, that you can finally go get a massage by yourselves, sit by the pool and read for an hour or two as a couple, or even, when you’re docked in a port, go do a fun, just-like-before-you-had-kids excursion, and leave your baby onboard in the capable, CPR-trained, fully background-checked hands of one of the nannies in the nursery. Vacation is vacation again! (Hey, I’m not saying you don’t love your baby and want to spend most of your time with her, but mama needs some alone time with daddy, too -- right?) Possibly even more exciting, Royal Caribbean also offers in-room babysitting, ($12 per hour) where not one, but two trained childcare professionals come to your stateroom to watch the kids while you have a fancy, adult dinner or catch a show.
The rest of the youth programs are also first-rate -- beautiful light-filled rooms on the 14th floor of the ship accommodate all kinds of fun (free) activities. Royal Caribbean has partnered with Fisher Price, so they have a ton of gear and toys to play and learn with. The Allure also features an arts and crafts room called the Imagination Studio, where thanks to a partnership with Crayola, kids age 3 and up can come do cool, often ocean-themed art projects. They’ve also partnered with High Touch High Tech to create the curriculum for their science lab where they teach kids about about sea animals and do fun projects like making a volcano errupt with baking powder. (Is this crazy or what? This isn’t kindergarten -- it’s a cruise -- how awesome?) All the while, mom and dad have a deck-phone so the folks at the kids center can give them a ring in case there are any issues.
The ship is currently doing both eastern and western Caribbean itineraries and the only question we’re left with is how soon can we get ourselves in bathing-suit shape?
What's your favorite family vacation destination? Chime in below!