Baltic Sea - A wonderful first family cruise on Royal Caribbean

Posted by ~Summer~ on August 15, 2010
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We went for our first ever cruise on Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas in the summer of 2010. I could only say I was truly blown away by the whole experience and the only regret I had was, "Why didn't we think of going on cruises earlier?"

Think about it, there are many ups about cruises, especially when you travel with a baby. You have a warm, cosy cabin at your dispense whenever you need a break, there is a wide variety of facilities available on board, an endless list of exciting programs and performances to watch, and you get to see many scenic places in less than a week, without having to even touch the steering wheel or go through the hassle of loading and unloading your bulky luggage. While it means that you actually don't have much time to explore a country in depth since it's more of a touch and go, but in most cases, you do get ample time to see the things you want to see and if there's a particular place you really loved, you can always re-visit it in future. What we loved was that we could go for tours and sightseeing in the day, then come back to indulge in the buffet on board or simply laze in the jacuzzi pools or have a nice nap in our comfy beds.

The first time we boarded the ship, we were kind of overwhelmed by the 11 decks of facilities, the breathtaking panoramic views and the friendliness of the crew. As we acted like little kids on a treasure hunt, taking the elevator to explore deck after deck, it felt like we had walked into a paradise and we knew it was going to be a heavenly holiday in front of us. Check out our Welcome Aboard picture above. It cost US$25 for one simple picture like this which we didn't feel like paying for. No, we didn't steal it eventually. All I did was to discreetly take a picture of it with my camera when it was displayed in the gallery.

There were really things I loved about the cruise and I've categorised them as below:

1) Food 

The food was overall delicious and value for $$. There were two nice dining rooms, Windjammer and Aquarius to choose from. We had continental buffet breakfast everyday which had quite a good variety of food and you could also order ala carte items to your liking. I especially loved all the desserts on board and I was so tempted to try everything! I would have, if I had four stomachs like a cow. For our dinner, we usually had a 3-course dinner with an appetizer, a main course followed by dessert.

The fact that Royal Caribbean is a U.S company is probably a positive thing for us because they offered an intercontinental variety of food, including some delectable Asian dishes which we were really grateful for. You know, sometimes we couldn't even get to eat the Thai fragrance rice that we Asians loved, there is really a big difference between that and the 'european' kind of rice. We call it the 'ang moh' rice. So you should see our delighted faces when we saw the yummy buffet spread every day.

As for Angel, since she was only 8 months old with no teeth, she couldn't get her bite into most of the food. So, though she had to stick to mushy baby food for majority of her meals, she still got to enjoy a platter of fruits, some oat cereal and a taste of ice cream.

By the way I strongly recommend for those who have a baby to get a totseat! It is this fabric that works as a chair harness and practically fits any chair. All you have to do is put your baby inside and ta-dah, you've just created a high chair. It is especially useful when you go to restaurants which have no, or limited, baby chairs, when you visit your friend's house and need to feed your baby, or when you go on holidays and high chairs might not be readily available as and when you needed it. I was so glad I brought it along because it meant that I could feed my baby in the cabin anytime without her crawling around and I could use it during our mealtime to let us have a peaceful meal knowing that she was safe beside us. Believe or not, the ship only had high chairs suited for toddlers or bigger kids and our little one could easily slip out of the hole in front.

2) Facilities 

There was a extensive range of facilities on board - Gym, swimming pool, jacuzzis, suana, steam bath, kids adventure park, arcade, lounges and bars, art gallery, shopping boutiques, theatre, casino and even a rock wall! We had signed up for the rock climbing but alas it was closed afterwards due to strong winds. That shattered my fantasy of climbing a 200ft wall amidst the wide ocean. You could also pay to enjoy services like spas, mani-pedi, hair services, massage, acupuncture and even facials or teeth whitening.

For us, we loved to relax in the lounges and have a cocktail, play some kiddy games in the arcade, or simply hang out at the casino and try our luck on the tables (ok, both of us love card games but we are definitely not high-stake players). In fact, both of us were on lucky streaks on this cruise and we won a total of over US$800 altogether. Yayy!

3) Programs

For each port we visited over the 8D7N period, there were plenty of tours to choose from. Even when we were at sea, there were always bustling activities on board and you would never feel a tinge of boredom. We went for scrapbooking, we took part in team trivia (out of 10 questions, we could only answer 1 but our amazingly-smart group mates could answer the rest), I did a sudoku challenge, and we played bingo (jw won 100 bucks at it, the lucky boy!!!). Being a dance lover, I was elated that there were so many dance sessions and even dance classes to attend. Jw and I went for the swing dance and salsa classes and joined in the poolside parties whenever we could. There was even a Mr Sexy Legs competition and many of the contestants were surprisingly spontaneous and had lots of fun showing off their smooth/hairy/skinny/not-so-skinny legs.

There were also two formal nights out of the seven nights, and people would take efforts to dress up and it really built up the atmosphere on board. You could even see some dressed up in tuxedos and evening gowns! What amazed me was that even some of the very old ladies would take the effort to doll up and wear flowy dresses though they were on walking sticks. It was really motivating.

We also loved to watch the theatre performances every night, from juggling feats to magic shows to broadway. Angel seemed to love them too as she would be engrossed with what was happening on stage, she would applaud with the audience every time and she even swayed to the dance music!

On one evening, there was this special program called the Love and Marriage game show whereby three selected couples would come on stage and the host would ask you questions about your partner while he/she was back stage. Then, your partner would come back on stage to reveal the answers, which was usually not what you had said, and sometimes things got incredibly hilarious. Believe it or not, jw and I actually auditioned to go up and we almost got chosen! Good thing we didn't though, cos' Angel got cranky halfway and it was a live recorded game show. As unique as her bawls might be, I wouldn't want it recorded and shown on every TV screen on the ship.

Anyway, there were many interesting questions such as:
"If there's one thing about your wife you can make bigger, and one thing smaller, what will it be?", 
"On your wife's side of the family, who will you least like to bring on a cruise?", 
"What is your wife's bra size?", 
"Where was the strangest place you had sex?", 
"What's the first thing your hubby touches when he wakes up in the morning?", 
"What's your hubby's most annoying habit?" and so on

Many times, the answers that the people gave were really tickling. We particularly loved the oldest couple who were married for 57 years already!

4) Service

As for the service on board, there was nothing more to ask for, really. We were especially impressed by the stateroom attendants who tidied up our room seemingly many times a day. We were wondering if they were watching our every move because sometimes we departed for less than an hour but came back to find a perfectly cleaned up room. Not only were they prompt, but they also did a good job and were detailed, for example they would fold our new towels into a different animal everyday, much to our fascination.

The cruise director was also very friendly, funny and spoke perfect English. We had 777 crew members who came from 62 countries, so it was as if you can see a united nations gathering on board. Not only were the crew friendly, many of the guests were very spontaneous, helpful and friendly too.

Anyway, Angel was the second youngest amongst the near 2300 guests on board, and boy was she a hit with the others! Many of them remembered her (There were not that many Asians on board in the first place) and would wave to her when they saw her. Some would even hold her hand, tickle her, take photos with her, and a few actually kissed her! Ok, you all must thank me for being so generous with my baby.  

I was glad that she was a super happy baby on this holiday and she greeted everyone with big smiles everyday. Who wouldn't love her? Then again, anyone wants to have her for 24 hours?

All in all, I really loved the entire vacation (despite a few silly bickers jw and I had, like how to dance salsa basic steps!) and we would definitely go on cruises again. I will be writing more on the ports of call in separate posts: namely Helsinki (Finland), St Petersburg (Russia), Riga (Latvia) and Gdansk (Poland). 

So, why not consider a cruise for your next holiday?

To see more of the world, visit my Travelogue page here.

*Disclosure: A Happy Mum did not receive any compensation in writing this review. All opinions are my own.


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