My High Seas Adventure
You may not know this about me yet, but one of my favorite things to do with my family is take a cruise and this past week, I traveled with my family to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday and we all decided to hop onboard the Emerald Princess cruising to St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Grand Turk. Waking up every morning in a new destination is like being a kid in a candy store. Except the stores I hit when I’m on vacation usually offer the sparkly kind of eye candy you can wear on your ears. But this time around, since I was traveling with my husband and kids who pretty much whine incessantly until I exit a jewelry store, I was on my own on the shopping front.
The Princess Cruise line offers great entertainment - from comedy shows, to bands performing in their side bars to a karaoke experience where you can sing with a band; and a piano bar called Crooners featuring a piano man who sounds like a cross between James Taylor and Billy Joel. Okay - not quite, but he is pretty awesome. What I absolutely love are the Movies under the Stars option. You get to sit on a lounge chair and cuddle up with a blanket and popcorn as you watch movies that have recently been released on DVD (This is It, Night at the Museum II, Harry Potter, Mamma Mia and many more).
There are also art shows, trivia contests, golf lessons, dance lessons, bingo, tons of shops, wine tastings and food, glorious food! Everywhere you turn there’s a dining room, cafe, 24 hour buffet, ice cream bar and pizza for the kids. Plus, in case you want to mix things up, you can make reservations at two restaurants on board that are not part of the meal plan.
One thing that is missing from our cruise experience - the midnight buffet. While food is plentiful, there are no ice sculptures or masterpieces in the pool area featuring mouthwatering creations. I mean seriously folks, how could there not be a chocolate fountain on board? There was a big island party though where everyone did the electric slide and macarena which is pretty much mandatory on cruise ships since the mid nineties. Plus, my son got the chance to play and win Guitar Hero by showing off his musical Wii prowess by the pool. I guess I could live without a chocolate covered marshmallow in lieu of watching my son play “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” on a gargantuan movie screen.
If you want to steal some time away for yourself at the spa, you can send your kids to the camp onboard. Princess Cruises offers camp options for kids ages 3-7 and 8-12 and a teen center with a disco called Skywalkers that offers stunning panoramic views of the ocean. Plus, there’s a state of the art gym with more than a dozen treadmills, elliptical machines, weights, bicycles for spinning and aerobics and yoga classes. And the spa offers everything from facials to hair cuts, manicures, detox, acupuncture, you name it, they probably have it.
The staterooms are also quite nice. The kids couldn't get enough of their bunk beds and I loved the cozy bed linens. Plus, the chocolates and cookies left in the room by the steward each night weren’t too shabby either. And since my parents have been on a few Princess Cruises, they were upgraded to a room with a balcony and our kids keep sneaking over there each night before we hit dinner.
As far as destinations, our Princess Cruise stopped in some of my favorite caribbean destinations including St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Grand Turk. All three of these places before offers something for everyone from shopping, to historical tours, snorkeling, catamaran sailing adventures and plenty of views (some of them the nudist kind so cover your kids eyes if you happen to take the optional excursion to the beach in St. Maarten).
In St. Thomas, my husband and daughter got the chance to snorkel and swim through a shipwreck guided by an amazing tour operator from a Catamaran called Castaway Girl 2. Meanwhile, my son, who wanted to have nothing to do with snorkeling, got the chance to do some Caribbean fishing. Want to know what that is? Simple, you pour a little rum in the water, throw in Chex mix and a fishing line with a hook and the snappers in the water will pretty much leap into the boat. Our captain caught five snappers in a row with my son's help and then pointed out a four foot long barracuda in right below us as we waited for my husband and daughter to return from their deep sea adventure.
In Grand Turk, my son and I hit the beach which seems to have eroded due to hurricanes and my husband and daughter set off on another snorkeling tour - this time they were getting the chance to swim with stingrays. And while I didn't get a chance to witness that experience, my daughter did inform me that she even kissed one before she climbed back on the boat (yuk!)
Back on the ship, we played scrabble, ate as if we had never seen a meal in our lives - my son gained 3 pounds and my daughter gained 5 and I have yet to set foot on a scale but something tells me it will not be pretty. Despite the tire that has now settled around my mid-section, we did have a fun time with our family but I think we're going to lay off cruising for awhile. Time to work off all the calories I consumed in seven days. Hello, Weight Watchers - it's you know who calling.