Cruise Ship Muster Drills Tips for Autism

In recent years, there have been some emergency situations and even tragedies in the cruise line industry.
In June 2015, the deadliest boat disaster in China in almost 70 years occurred when 456 people, mostly older citizens, were on board a cruise when disaster struck, and only 14 passengers survived.
In 2010 and 2011, the Carnival Splendor and Carnival Triumph respectively had engine fires, and there were several passengers injured.
In 2012, one of the worst maritime disasters in modern Italian history occurred when the Costa Concordia sank, and 32 passengers died, and 64 were injured.

As much as we don’t want to think about things going wrong on our planned holiday, travelers need to learn what to do when emergencies happen.So just like airlines have their flight attendants explain emergency procedures in the event of emergency landings, the cruise lines conduct their muster drills.

Cruise Ship Muster Drills Tips for Autism kids

What is the Muster Drill

Though each cruise liner has their method for carrying out a muster drill, they are mandatory, and the aim is to familiarize all guests and even the crew with valuable information.
By law, the drills must be done immediately before setting sail, but a minority of cruise lines do it the next day once the ship has already left port.In the past, the drill was done outside on the decks in the actual mustering stations, but in recent times, it is performed indoors where people can sit comfortably instead of stand for 20-30 minutes.

Years back when we first started cruising, we were told that muster drills were compulsory for every passenger –much like cough syrup: it tastes awful, but it is good for you.’ Dressed in uncomfortable life jackets, standing outside in the hot afternoon sun we all tried to listen to the lengthy presentations accompanied by loud sirens.
Many times we didn’t even get there; it all depended on the extent of our son’s whining, complaining and crying that day. I  distinctly remember several instances when I got lectured by crew members after my son wondered off.Eventually, we got more savvy and learned to avoid the comments and looks all together.
On one of our voyages, someone at Guest Services suggested we asked the cruise lines if we could get away with sending a family delegate to the muster drill instead of trying to make our son attend.
They agreed, and it made a positive difference in our cruising experience.

But that all changed for the better with the new trend of having the drill indoors.
During our past cruise on the Golden Princess,  all passengers assembled in the ship’s  air conditioned amphitheater and listened to a much more interesting presentation.

Cruise Ship Muster Drills Tips for Autism speech
Our Takeaway from the Presentation

During this drill, additional safety information was presented, and passengers were taught what actions needed to be taken in the various situations.
The most important guideline was for everyone to have their medication and cruise cards ready to grab from their cabins at all times.
Furthermore, everyone needed to have an item of warm clothing handy because it can be chilly out on the open sea during a potential evacuation of the ship.
The presentation continued to explain that in a time of any emergency; there would be crew members that would direct the passengers and assist with life jackets and direct travelers to the lifeboat and life rafts.

 

Cruise Ship Muster Drills Tips for Autism crowds

Autism Travel Tips

  • Ask customer service for a private room or an exemption if your child can not attend but it is important and recommended that your child is still taught by you what to do in a time of a crisis.
  • The drill; anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes in length, contains loud noises, including the sounds of the signals so if your child is sensitive to noise, bring noise canceling headphones.
  • Make sure to visit the actual muster station with your kid to familiarize him/her with the place – the location is clearly marked on the back of your cabin door.
  • Have your kid watch the video  (link below) in increments so that he or she remembers what to do and is prepared.

Family Tips for Cruising Quantum of the Seas

Family Tips for Cruising Quantum of the Seas ship

Royal Caribbean has always been a favorite cruise line with our family. My husband and I celebrated our honeymoon on the now defunct ‘Song of America’ in 1992, and it was aboard ‘Radiance of the Sea’ that our kids enjoyed their first cruise in 2005.

After having cruised with Royal Caribbean numerous times over the past two decades, we were very excited to sail onboard their ‘Quantum of the Seas’ ship and share our family tips after experiencing the ship’s eateries and attractions.

Super fast Boarding at Bayonne

We arrived at the pier by 11:30 AM and expected large crowds, but there were none. There were multiple agents checking guests on I -pads and the process went along so fast, we didn’t need even need to mention our son’s disability.
Check-in took less than 10 minutes from start to finish, which was surprising if you consider the fact that there were over four thousand of passengers coming through.

Our Cabin

We liked the innovative closet design along with the ‘virtual balcony concept that gave us a sense of the ship’s geographical location at all times, but we were somewhat disappointed with the cabin’s lack of sound-proofing.

Quantum of the Seas Cabin: HD Virtual Balcony View

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Ship's Aft Rockers

Muster drill

As customary with all vessels, the ship’s exercise started at 4 pm before sail away from New Jersey.
The ship had multiple areas designated as emergency assembly spots for passengers to sit and watch the informational movie. We appreciated the short presentation along with the reminder to wash hands and prevent the dreaded Norovirus!

Service

On our first night, We were slightly peeved to find out that our son’s sofa bed wasn’t set up by 11 pm when we were tired and ready to go to sleep.Moreover, the room attendant was rude when we tried to speak to him about it the following day.
But we’re thrilled to report that RCCL Customer Service bounced back in a big way.After we complained to Guest Services, Carol, the deck housekeeping supervisor, assigned a new attendant and sent an apology note with a complimentary wine bottle to our cabin.

Though the lines for Guest Relations were somewhat long (most complaints we heard were about the new restaurant booking system and the wristbands) we did find the staff courteous and helpful.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Jeffrey With Stoick

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Kids ClubDining

In the old system, passengers were assigned specific dining times, servers and tables for the duration of the entire cruise. The fun part about that was the relationships travelers got to develop with the servers and fellow diners. The downside was that if one didn’t like their fellow travelers or servers they had to ask the Maitre D’ to be moved to a different table, which was a hassle.

The new “Dynamic Dining’ concept the cruise line recently switched to, gives guests more flexibility.With this system, Guests can dine whenever, wherever and with whoever they chose every night. The upside is that passengers can try multiple food venues with different settings and servers.The downside is that each of these more intimate restaurants offers a fixed and relatively limited menu. And now, passengers need to remember to pre-book their restaurant choice ahead of time, dine at undesirable hours or wait in somewhat long lines for a table to open up.

Overall, we liked the new concept of the different venues and food diversity and thought that it was a good step in the right direction.
With that said, things can be improved in terms of food choices ( we would love to see sampler plates as part of the menus) and getting the current reservation system to work more smoothly.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Chic Lobster

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Crab CakeThe Free Restaurant Options

The ship had ten complimentary restaurants that offered diverse dishes from different cuisines

  • Our favorite for breakfast and lunch was Cafe 270, next to the ships aft with freshly made to order paninis and salads.
  • Chic restaurant with its bistro-style food and American Icon with its southern grub reminded us of the typical dining room food on the older ships while Grande’s menu was a nod to the bygone formal cruise dinners.
  • Silk, the Asian venue was beautifully decorated and our favorite personal for its noodle selections
  • The International Cafe and Sorrento Pizza served their usual sandwiches, pastries, salads, and pizzas.We finally got around to trying Sorrento’s gluten free pizza, and I have to admit it was delicious
  • The Windjammer Buffet, another old time favorite, seemed to be modest in choices, but the bakery’s fresh cookies and muffins were a big hit with everyone.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Jaime Oliver Cake

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Wonderland Dessert

 

The Quantum had several restaurants that offered meals with a fixed menu and price.

  • If you enjoy innovative food in an unusual funky setting, then Wonderland is the place to try. At 50 dollars per person, diners start with discovering the different elements of ice, fire, earth through their five senses.I won’t give away details, so I don’t spoil the surprise, but all the items we selected, completed each other wonderfully, and provided a memorable symphony to the senses.
  • Chops (30$ per person) is a staple steak house with consistently excellent quality food and service while Izumi is a good place to grab your sushi/sashimi fix when you crave a quick, tasty lunch.
  • Like everyone else we found the Devinly Decadence (20$ per person) concept of 500 calorie dishes tantalizing, so we tried it one evening.Our son voted the flatbread pizza choices a cruise favorite.
  • In Jaime Oliver’s Italian (25$ per person) restaurant, we found the appetizers and desserts more tempting than the main courses, so we geared our appetite accordingly.
  • Michael Swartz’s pub exceeded our expectations and managed to wow us with its charcuterie platter that complemented our selection of libations well.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Wonderland Entrance

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Wonderland Decor

Attractions

Quantum of the Seas comes with an impressive array of activities guests can enjoy.The ship offers trapeze lessons; a skydiving simulator called I- fly, surfing lessons, rock climbing, and bumper cars as well as several pools and hot tubs.
Because of the stormy weather during our trip our son only tried out the indoor trapeze lesson, the I-fly simulator and bumper cars.
The weather also interfered with our original booking, and we ended up riding the North Star, an enclosed gondola, while sailing at sea with only waves to watch, instead of near on of the ports where the views would have been more spectacular.
Noteworthy was the glass swing in the aft theater that our son discovered and sat on for hours along with the comfy rocking chairs nearby.

Entertainment

We thought the Mama Mia production was a worthy addition to the ship lineup but ended up too tired from the day trips to see the other two productions.
For kids, the Quantum offered, the not-to -be-missed DreamWorks parades along with character breakfasts and photo apps.

Decor and Art

Quantum of the Seas is one of the more interesting ships to walk around and to admire the artwork as well as ride every elevator to take  ‘selfies’ with the quirky pictures displayed inside.
Not to be missed is the Bionic Bar that all passengers get to gawk at and watch robots mix and serve drinks.

TIPS When On Quantum of the Seas:Seating Area

TIPS When On Quantum of the Seas:Art

Autism Travel Tips

  • Royal Caribbean is very Autism Friendly and not only provides a particular department (like other cruise and airlines) designated to special needs accommodations but is in the process of training its staff to understand and help passengers with autism better.
  • Contact the access desk after booking your trip make sure to notify the cruise line of your kid’s individual needs and any accommodations he/she needs
  • Pre-book your itinerary your show times and paid restaurants online to help you plan better
  • After boarding the ship, head on to guest relations and remind them you are traveling with a special needs child
  • Ask to meet with the activities coordinator and kid’s’ club director to relay your child’s needs.
  • Ask for help in disembarkation! If your flight is later in the day ask permission to stay in the room until 9:30 AM when most crowds have left, and your kid won’t need to brave any crowds.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Restraunt Theatre

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Restaurant Show

For Shows

  • Ask for pre-seating for shows! Similar to pre-boarding you can request permission to get into the show halls ten minutes before the other members of the audience to get your kid settled down.
  • Try to sit as close to an exit as possible in case your kid wishes to leave in the middle of the show.
  • If that’s not a possibility, then you can ask for seats next to in the hall’s disability seating area (close to the main entrance)  and see if that is available.
  • Remember to bring a set of noise canceling headphones to lessen the sound if your child is noise sensitive.

For Dining

  • Ask to meet with the ship chefs if there are known food allergies.
  • Go in person every night, pre-book the restaurant you wish to dine the next day and ask the Maitre D’  for a quietest table possible way from loudspeakers, music, bars and the kitchen.
  • Always try to book a table at the time they first open for dinner, so your child doesn’t have to wait in any line
  • Ask to get a copy of the menu so your kid can decide ahead of time what he /she wants to order.

For Activities

  • The I-Fly is not recommended for noise sensitive children as it is incredibly noisy.In fact, the staff makes travelers wear ear plugs and goggles for protection.
  • For Rock Climbing and I-Fly require passengers to wear special shoes that are provided free of charge.,make sure your kid wears socks
  • You should prepare your kid in advance to the idea of wearing the ship wristband.
    Passengers open the cabin door and can pay charges onboard with it
  • Bring a piece of a stick -on velcro to substitute for the buckle and help them put it on and take it off quickly.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Glass Swing

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Rock Climbing

 

Five Tips to Survive the Last Day of Your Cruise

 Now that you have survived all of the pre-travel preparation and the actual cruise itself, it’s time to wrap things up and plan for your departure.
Just like your pre-travel planning, it is just as important to make a checklist so that you don’t leave anything on the ship or have any problems on the way home.

Five Tips to Survive the Last Day of Your Cruise

Don’t wait until the last moment to pack your suitcases
Pack a separate bag for each family member  using  our color coded system  in  2.5-gallon Ziploc bags for their belongings. Using this method will make  life  easier when doing laundry after you return home since everyone can deal their own items .If  you need to have two people  share a suitcase, reserve one side for every individual so items won’t get mixed up.

Check the cabin thoroughly
Move the nightstands and look under the beds in case you have some items that fell down and were hidden. I’m not a big fan of using room/cabin cabinets and drawers for many reasons, but I still check to make sure my son with autism did not decide to ‘hide’ something in there.

Start planning your vacation albums
Put your pictures on your days at sea on a CD or upload into the computer so it will be easier to remind your child with autism about his or her vacation as well as  have a backup  in the event that something happens to your phone or camera during travel. Walk around the ship and take those pictures you wanted while everyone is busy packing.

Five Tips to Survive the Last Day of Your Cruise

Finish up any onboard credit and check out the sales
Check the last minute sales and do purchase those 2 for $20 t-shirts the stores offer the night before you reach your destination since the shops close when the ship is in port. This is the day to return any purchases you want to return or exchange!

Check your flight
Make sure you check your flight info in advance so you are aware of any last minute changes in your flight (including aircraft size and seating.) If you haven’t used automatic check-in ( and you should!!)  then print your flight boarding passes early in the morning,  you will encounter a line later on in the day.

Don’t wait until the last minute!
Check your bill throughout the cruise and don’t wait till the last evening – you are bound to encounter a long line at customer service!
Wish to dine in a specialty restaurant or try an attraction you didn’t get a chance to try during the cruise -make sure you book in advance since many people want last minute reservations too.

Five Tips to Survive the Last Day of Your Cruise

Have you gone on a cruise with your family? How did you spend your last day onboard?

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas pin

This ship owned and operated by the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is the namesake of the cruise line’s Freedom-class. Capable of carrying over five thousand passengers and crew members the ship mostly travels to ports in the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas ship

What Makes it Family Worthy?

Filled with family-friendly activities this ship is sure to entertain its passengers. Moreover, the vessel boasts quad cabins and connecting rooms that accommodate large families.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas promenade

Fellow Travelers

This cruise line is incredibly popular with families, but active retirees and couples may also find this ship appealing too.Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas sampling

Decor

This vessel like its sister ships is decorated in dark hues of browns, greens, and touches of gold. The main thoroughfare its Royal Promenade boasted plenty of natural light from its skylight ceiling windows.

Despite the ship’s size the ship has a spacious atmosphere even when filled.We enjoyed the bright neon lighting deployed at night time throughout the outdoor decks and promenade that gave the ship an upbeat Times-Square-like vibe.

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas lamp

Our promenade facing cabins were outfitted with tasteful artwork,  glass-topped coffee tables, and solid green couches. Light colored wood trims enhanced the bedroom area. Our bathroom floors were done up in colorful blue and green tile, while the rest of the room displayed neutral colors.
Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas show

Amenities

With so many activities to choose from at the different times of day, vacationers need to scrutinize their daily planner carefully, so they don’t miss anything! Our son with autism was obsessed with reading the pamphlets the night before so he could schedule his day.

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas planner

 

For the outdoor fans, the ship has pools, court .a simulated FlowRider, a skating rink, a mini golf range, a rock climbing wall and a basketball court.Those wishing to exercise indoors can do so in a spacious gym.

Guests who enjoy taking classes can learn to scuba, surf or decorate cupcakes.The classes are somewhat pricey, but our son was so fascinated with them he agreed to pay for them from his allowance.

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas cake

Apart from the obligatory Kids’ Clubs, the ship features Dreamworks experiences like special shows, Parades, Meet and Greet sessions and even Character Breakfasts. Our kids attended the daily movie screenings in the ship’s newly minted 3D theater.
Adults may instead want to check out the casino. Although admission is free of charge, reservations are encouraged for those that want to attend the highly popular ice show that takes place on a regular basis

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas pool

When it comes to dining options, the Freedom of  Seas offers many options aimed to please passengers of all ages.
Except for the main dining rooms with their singing waiters and Windjammer Buffet the ship has a Johnny Rockets burger joint, a Ben and Jerry ice cream parlor and Chops, a specialty steak house.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas theater

In the late afternoon and evening, this ship breams with entertainment options for its guests. From well-choreographed ice skating shows, Broadway reviews to promenade parades there’s never a dull moment onboard.Our kids loved the 70’s disco party that featured the well- loved era hits and dances.

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas cupcake

Our connecting cabins

We stayed in the connecting cabins 8279 and 8281 on deck eight.
What was wonderful about it was these cabins provided us with changing views (of the promenade and are safer than balcony cabins when traveling with a kid with autism.

5981750253_0a82e90180_oThe only minor inconvenience with connecting rooms is the fact the cruise line locks the connecting door on boarding day, and it takes a few hours till the cabin steward arrives with the keys to unlock it.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas beds

Both cabins had an extremely large flat screen television sets that sat atop large cabinets. A closet with ample shelving was likewise included in each room which was useful to store our belongings. The desk area contained all the usual accouterments and had several outlets for charging electronic devices.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas bag

Our sons were pleasantly surprised when the teen club staff sent welcome gifts up to our cabins and added a personal invitation for both boys to come and check the club out.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas sink

Our bathrooms

The bathroom areas were well laid out and l lit. I particularly liked the shower sliding door because it provided some privacy for those taking a shower. The shower pod also featured some racks to place soap and other bath products.Bright florescent lighting and a wide sink area complemented the décor.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas breakfast

Autism Travel Tips

  • The process of boarding the ship was a breeze after I had called Royal Caribbean’s special needs dept and requested accommodations.We were cleared with passports checked and luggage scanned in less than fifteen minutes.The terminal RCCL uses in Port Everglades is large, but it was still quite crowded at 2 pm when we arrived.
  • One of the first things we do after boarding is to grab lunch before the muster drill as all food areas close for the muster drill.
  • Next, we hurry the activity centers to register for the different activities since the popular ones fill fast.
  • Passengers wishing to try out the specialty restaurants onboard should do so on boarding day when it is less crowded, and no one insists on any dress code.

    The staff on this ship wowed us. We were warmly greeted by our cabin steward who wanted to ask us what we needed as soon as we arrived. We also found the staff at the various dining , entertainment and activities venues mindful and offering their help throughout the trip. Furthermore we wanted to extend a heart felt thank you to the ship’s captain who took time to chat with our son and sign his ship model and Celine in Guest Relations.

 

 

 

 

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite

 

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite pin
The Norwegian Breakaway operated by the Norwegian Cruise Lines has a total of 1,024 staterooms and 238 suites.With the Rockettes as its godmothers and New York City as its base, it is one of the most glamorous cruise ships navigating the high seas.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite ice

Having never cruised with Norwegian cruise lines before we decided to book a two-night cruise to nowhere solely for the purpose of enjoying the ship. Although ,we usually book inside cabins this time so I splurged on a mini-suite with a balcony.
Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite maxx

Decor

The ship is decorated in a sleek modern style with vibrant colors and heavy use of metallics. Unlike other vessels we’ve cruised on, this one has a hip almost avantgarde vibe to it starting with the Peter Maxx painted the hull.Bright murals splashed across the front of the ship, the gym, and the pool areas complemented the look.

.
Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite stairs

 

We stayed in suite 10834, which was cozy though it was oddly shaped and relatively narrow. Our contemporary decorated suite featured tan wave patterned carpeting in the bedroom and light tan tile flooring in the bathroom.

 

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite corridor

Our mini suite

As we entered, we noticed the emergency procedures prominently displayed on the back of the door. Another feature that caught our eye was the thermostat, allowing travelers to adjust the suite’s temperature to suit their preferences.
Underneath the temperature control device were buttons that could be pushed to indicate whether guests wanted their rooms freshened up or they did not wish to be disturbed by housekeeping.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite bell

The two double beds (that could be put together to form a queen ) were comfortable as were the crisp linens and fluffy hypoallergenic pillows supplied. There were two small nightstands beside the beds that could house books, electronics, or other items that needed to be readily accessed.

The cabin closet featured wooden shelving as well as the mini in-room safe. It was a bit of a stretch to reach from the beds to turn the lights on and off, but that was only a minor issue.
The suite’s large couch in the sitting area next to the beds could double as an extra bed for a teen that traveled with parents.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite beds

 

Across from the beds, there was a large television with a cabinet beneath it. The cabinet held a cooler that served as the suite’s mini-bar stocked with snacks and cold beverages for purchase. The suite also had a small work /vanity area with a phone and two outlets to charge our devices along with a small stool to sit on. The Coffee and tea making section took up the rest of the counter space.

 

The balcony

Originally I was reluctant to book a cabin with a balcony. However, I felt reassured when I saw the double locks on the sliding door. The two locks were tricky to open for most kids and provided that extra layer of peace of mind for parents to kids with autism.
The suite’s  balcony was surprisingly clean and overlooked the lifeboats offering a partial ocean view. But all in all,i t was large enough to sit in and enjoy the ocean breeze

 

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite sofa

The suite’s bathroom

We loved the bathroom facilities.
There was a sufficiently large counter that could hold some towels along with two sinks. For additional storage, the bathroom had a wooden cabinet underneath the sinks.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite phone

The shower was large with a top-of- the -line handheld device that featured water jets.There were soap and shampoo dispensers provided by the cruise line.
The enclosure made of plain glass with no frosting provided no real privacy. We did appreciate the fact that the area had a grab bar for passengers who needed it. Furthermore, the raised section at the bottom of the shower helped prevent flooding which was a bonus.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite sink

Autism Travel Tips 

  • The suite boasted two safety bars in the bathroom, one near the toilet and another in the shower. The bars allowed those with mobility issues to use these facilities.
  • Anti slip mats for the shower were not provided, so those that need this item will need to bring it along.
  • Parents might want to pack night lights to help family members navigate their way in the dark.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite jeff

 

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas

 pin family-cruise-aboard-allure-of-the-seas-1

 

Owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines,  Allure of the Seas is an Oasis-class cruise ship commissioned and built in Finland.After cruising her sister ship  Oasis of the Seas that offered family friendly amenities we decided to spend a Thanksgiving vacation onboard.


Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas glass

What Makes It Family Worthy?

Traveling on cruise ships is an affordable and stress-free way to plan a family vacation. With the vast selection of activities available onboard the ship’s various neighborhoods, travelers are sure to stay entertained throughout the entire voyage.
Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas park

Fellow Travelers

This ship mainly hosts families, but younger to middle-aged couples are also well represented.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas rock

Amenities

From the Windjammer Buffet, Johnny Rockets and Sorrento to specialty restaurants Chops, Izumi, Samba and 150 Central Park the dining possibilities onboard are close to endless. So, we felt we just had to try all the different venues and compare them. By far, our favorites were 150 Central Park (our kids still remember the salts) and Rita’s Cantina for the ambiance.

 

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas peep

The activities on this ship are a vacationer’s dream. Both our sons couldn’t get enough of the FlowRider, ziplining, rock climbing and yes, that wooden carousel.
A second best were the cupcake classes which were a bit pricey at 224 a person and a daily stroll through the Britto store.
Moreover, we found the afternoon and nightly shows fun; the highlight was attending a performance of the musical Chicago.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas cupcakes
And if all these activities were not enough, the Dreamworks character breakfast and parades totally charmed our son with autism.
In fact, he sought out all the Dreamworks activities on the daily planner and made sure he didn’t miss any of them!

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas pool

Décor

Brightly hued, modern décor can be found throughout the Allure. The corridor we stayed on was decorated in yellow and had varicolored carpeting on the floors.

Our cabins were done up in shades of blue and turquoise.  The blue and yellow accents in our bathrooms did much to help enliven what typically are the blandest spaces in most cruise ship accommodations.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas carousel

Our adjoining cabins

We stayed in connecting cabins 151 and 153 on deck ten. As is the case with most cruise ships, the safety practices for the vessel were prominently displayed on the back of the doors. There was a master light switch near both entryways which made it easy to turn the lights on and off as we either came into the room or departed from it.
Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas golf

Our beds had plentiful pillows and the usual white bedding, but the included blue throws which added a note of color. There were two small wooden nightstands at either side of the beds and round mirrors above the sitting areas. Both closets included the usual amenities, such as built-in wooden hangers, and a cabinet that also housed the in-room safe.
Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas flowrider

The sitting areas had large couches, coffee tables, and waste baskets. Directly across from the spaces, there were work desks and chairs. On top of each desk were a small clock and a large flat screen television with a storage rack above.
Underneath each desk was a well-stocked mini fridge. Travelers who wanted to use the fridge for their purposes, like storing leftovers or medicines, needed to ask the staff to remove the mini bar contents first to avoid additional charges.
Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas cabin Furthermore, both cabins had some readily available outlets that made charging our electronics a breeze.
There was also a full-length mirror in each room just outside the bathroom so that we could check our outfits before leaving the cabin.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas cooler

The Bathroom

Our bathrooms contained a sizeable shower pod with a frosted enclosure door that slid closed. The shower area featured a shampoo dispenser, a shelf for the soap, and hooks to hang up towels or swimsuits.  There was a large drain in the shower as well as another underneath the toilet that served to remove excess water and keep the bathroom floor dry.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas hottub

For furniture, the bathroom  boasted  a large, open wooden cabinet capable of holding our personal supplies. Additional hooks for holding towels and wet clothes were present on both the bathroom wall and door. Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas diningOverall the bathroom layout was suitable though  I felt the bathroom could have used an additional lighting fixture in the shower area. Also, wider counters and extra shelving would have helped improve the bathrooms functionality.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas zipline

Autism Travel Tips

  • Travelers can use the showerhead as a handheld device if that proves necessary.
  • Those who require bath mats for additional traction will need to bring their own
  • Royal Caribbean is known for accommodating passengers with autism and other special needs. Therefore, we called ahead of time to let the cruise line know what our son needed and were not disappointed.
  • We found the ship’s staff accommodating and helpful at all the venues. So we take the opportunity to mention to the cupcake class instructor who sat with our son and helped him get that puppy look that he was trying hard to create with the cream.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway

 

 

Operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines, the Breakaway ship can accommodate up to four thousand passengers and a little over one thousand five hundred crew members on any given voyage. Trips on this vessel usually encompass parts of the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and the Eastern seaboard of the United States. These cruises primarily are geared towards vacationing families and the activities listed below will certainly make great pastimes if you happen to be traveling with kids including those with autism.


Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway ropes
  The Aquapark

Depending on the outdoor ambient temperatures during your voyage, some travelers might decide to forgo this activity. When we sailed on the Breakaway, it was a chilling 40 degrees in NYC.However, that still didn’t deter some passengers to swim in the pools.
Cruise ship passengers headed to warmer climates will certainly want to bring their swimsuit along so they can try out the  five waterslides that found on the premises.  The small children pool nearby that featured a faux island in the middle and statues of Sandy the Squirrel, Patrick, and Sponge Bob Square Pants lined the area.

The outdoor attractions

Our son with autism couldn’t get enough off playing miniature golf, scaling the rock climbing wall, and testing our nerve on the high ropes course. A large number of teens and adults could be found participating in these pastimes during our voyage. The high ropes course seemed to be the most attractive with its zip-line style activities.  All the proper safety features appeared to be in place with helmets and harness available for the rock climbers and high ropes enthusiasts.
Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway toppings


Decorate your own cupcake.

This one is bound to give kids a sugar high!
Activity participants were provided with a plain cupcake to use as a blank canvas for their tasty creations. Available cupcake topping options included icing, sprinkles, gummy bears, M&Ms, and marshmallows.And the best part; passengers got to take their creations back to the cabin, popular show mom and dad or enjoy as a late snack.

 

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway sponge bob

Selfies with Nickelodeon characters

Both Patrick and SpongeBob were both available for photographic purposes during the cruise, much to our son’s delight. Passengers could find the exact time and places onboard where the familiar characters would show up, by reading the daily newsletter.  Our son didn’t encounter a long line the day he went to the meet and greet, but according to the staff,  longer lines could be expected during holiday and summer cruises.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway nick show


Participate in the Cream Pie Toss
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Another activity our son who is an avid Nickelodeon fan enjoyed was the Nick show.The staff selected a member of the audience to partake, and she got to be ‘creamed.’Our son was disappointed he didn’t get chosen at first but then felt relieved that he didn’t have to wash up when he watched the show.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway jungle

Enjoy Broadway-style shows.

Many cruises offer musical extravaganza for their patrons to enjoy. These fun filled spectacles make a great way to past the time when ships are not in port.We got to see ‘Rock of the Ages’ musical which featured the 80s music.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway karoake

Be a part of a shipboard karaoke contest.

During our trip, this event took place on the small Impact stage which was surrounded by a sizeable audience. The competition’s emcee kept the hits rolling right along, and the group of backup musicians helped add just the right note to the proceedings.
Travelers that plan on showing off their talents should keep in mind that this family friendly event attracts lots of attention.Therefore, a stage debut here is probably not for the faint of heart even though the crowd was incredibly respectful of the impromptu performers.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway kids

 

Drop by the Kids Clubs.

The ship’s kid clubs have a lot of good activities to keep children’s boredom at bay when the ship is at sea.The Club is divided into colorful rooms and sections depending on the kids’ ages.There are different arts and crafts activities available. Our kids didn’t personally attend since they considered themselves ‘too grown up’ but we got a sneak peek tour and chatted with the activities director.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway teens

Autism Travel Tips

Parents need to be aware that cruise ships don’t provide lifeguards so parents need to be vigilant and watch their kids around the pools and slides.
The area surrounding the pool was a bit slippery so parents should consider bringing crocs or other closed toe water shoes for especially for younger kids.
Overall we discovered the cruise ship staff to be quite accommodating to special needs when we asked for help. The staff had our son with autism come to the activities either before they started or at the very end so he could get to do the activities without standing in the lines.

We were thrilled to discover the cruise line offered noise canceling devices to help noise sensitive kids during the shows.Also, we got pre- seating for the shows which helped our son enjoy the entertainment onboard.

Parents who would like their kids with autism to partake in the Meet and Greet but skip the long lines should ask the staff or help.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess pin

Owned by the Princess Cruise Lines, this vessel is a Grand-class cruise ship that entered service in 2001. Sister ship of Grand Princess and Star Princess she can carry more than 3,600  passengers and crew.
Last month while the ship was traveling between L.A and the Mexican Riviera we decided to book a weekend cruise and enjoy the outstanding Princess amenities provided onboard.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess movies

What Makes it Family Worthy?

As we mentioned before we are huge fans of cruising since it is a way to enjoy a great vacation at a reasonable price, visit several ports yet unpack only once.
Though this particular ship offers less family friendly activities than its counterparts on competing cruise lines, it still had multiple venues to engage passengers of all age groups.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess blue

Fellow Travelers

Depending on its itinerary this vessel attracts more retirees and couples. However, families still make a decent sized segment of onboard guests.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess piano

Décor

The ship decor was modern using vibrant colors with wood accents throughout the vessel. The dining spaces were designed in hues of tans and browns while the entertainment areas looked more glitzy dressed in pinks, purples, and golds.

Neutral colors like cream and silver were prevalent in our bathroom, but the floor consisted of blue and white tiles arranged in a checkerboard pattern. The bedroom area was mostly decorated in white and other neutrals with lightly hued wood paneling throughout. There was also red patterned carpeting and a blue chair in our cabin blending some color to the overall design scheme.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess muster

Family Entertainment


As mentioned before, this particular ship had fewer entertainment options than other ships we had previously vacationed on.
With that said our son with autism enjoyed some of the ‘grown up’ activities that he had never tried before.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess pool

We all tried the outdoor activities like the pools, water slides, mini golf, giant chess, shuffleboard, virtual bowling (WII) and ping pong games. He discovered Bingo which though a bit of a money pit helped him practice, his social interactions with staff and fellow passengers. Also, he found the cupcake decorating class fun so he went back the next day to do it again.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess chess

For evening entertainment, we did sit through a Broadway review of the British 60’s invasion songs which was mediocre, and we were disappointed the movie under the stars was canceled due to high winds.
Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess show

What was surprisingly good was an acrobatic show in the lobby area that we watched mesmerized, and the pretend New Year’s countdown party, a Princess tradition.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess cake

The ship featured several spots to dine throughout the cruise.
Apart from the Horizon Court  Buffet and regular dining restaurants it had pay for purchase restaurants like  Sabatini’s, serving Italian fare, and the Crown Grill, offering steakhouse style grub.
We dined at Sabatini for 25$ Prix fix menu per person and had an overall enjoyable experience.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess bar


Our Cabin

Our family stayed in the P303  cabin on Plaza Deck Five.
We were greeted by balloons and a celebratory poster tacked to our cabin door in honor of our son’s birthday, which was a nice touch.

Our cabin had a  porthole window providing an excellent view of the outside. The safety information found on the back of the door was clearly marked to let us know where our muster station was in the event of an emergency.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess curtain

Upon entering our cabin, the bathroom area was on the left. Just across the small entryway, there was a closet that contained all the lifejackets in the case of any unforeseen emergency. It had ample amount of storage space and could easily hold lots of our luggage.

The cabin itself had two beds with nightstands in between them. There was also a pull out bunk bed that could be opened at night and closed during the day for our son. It contained a safety bar that helps keep sleepers from falling out.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess tv

Our cabin’s television was placed over the desk, as was a large mirror. The latter feature allowed the space to function as a vanity. A hairdryer was attached to the wall nearby to further facilitate this usage. More in keeping with the desk’s traditional purpose as a workspace were the additional shelves and drawers that were included in its design.

There was a phone and some beverage glasses on the desktop for our use, and one of the cabinets beneath it contained a mini fridge. There were also a fair number of outlets provided, but travelers who find that they need more may want to bring their electric strips.A visible thermostat helped complete the picture as it allowed the room temperature to be quickly adjusted to our liking.
Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess safe

Our Bathroom

The bathroom was incredibly well organized with several hooks for hanging towels and wet clothing. There were two fully stocked towel racks above the commode. Extra toilet paper could be found under the sink just in case it was needed. There was a sizeable open cabinet at one end of the sink counter that was capable of holding even more personal belongings.

Under the sink was a shelf that held the waste bin but it could also be used to store supplies. The shower itself was fairly ordinary in design.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess towels
However, it had excellent water pressure and featured raised up edges along the bottom so that water didn’t get splashed all over the floor. The shower was separated from the toilet area with a curtain.

The cabin also contained a full-length mirror near the bathroom area so that we could check our outfits before departing their room to go anywhere.
Overall, though the room was not large, it turned out to be functional and well organized.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess glasses

Autism Travel Tips

  • The shower in the cabin has a safety handle so that those who need to do so can use it.
  • We discovered that walkie-talkies were useful devices on cruises and recommend that other families bring along their own sets to communicate with each other.
  • Gluten free and other diet observing passengers should let the cruise line know ahead of time whether they plan to stay on the ship while in port so they could be accommodated.
  • Parents to kids with autism should ask guest services for  restaurants and show seating arrangements .t
  • Word of caution about the coffee shop on the ship; the hot beverages are served at a very high temperature so parents should remind their kids to take extra precautions to avoid scalding themselves,
  • Parents should pack a set of noise canceling headphones or earplugs if their kid wishes to attend the ultra-noisy new year’s or sail away parties.

Family Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic

 

 

family-cruise-aboard-the-carnival-magic

 

Owned by Carnival Cruise Line, the Magic is a Dream-class cruise ship. With 1845 cabins, it can carry up to 6000 people on board. The vessel boasts a mini water park called Waterworks and has 15 decks since floor 13 doesn’t exist. Furthermore, Cloud 9 Spa is available for adults on decks 12 and 14 while Camp Carnival for kids is on Deck 11.

 

 

Family Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic tapestry

This ship typically caters to families ranging in size from couples with kids to large groups comprising multiple generations. While the age group onboard varies widely, most travelers on this ship seem to have a sense of fun and adventure.We got a chance to cruise onboard in its inaugural season when it said Mediterranean ports like Venice and Barcelona.

Family Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic lights

The public areas of the ship were exceptionally clean and tastefully decorated, though some spots were especially high on the glitz factor. The hallway of the corridor in which we stayed was embellished with a brightly hued mural. The rest of the surrounding walls were decorated in vibrant blues, purples, and whites with light colored wooden accents.

 

 

Family Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic lamps

Amenities

This ship has a spa, a theater, a library, sports areas, swimming pools, hot tubs, and a water park complete with two slides.

6095754030_1c140353fd_oAdults could make their way over to the Serenity section of the ship, which was completely kid-free or checks out the casino. Traveling kids could enjoy the pool, sports courts and the rope course that is an innovative concept for the cruise line company.

Family Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic city There are plenty of different places to eat onboard, but the Red Frog Pub and the  Cucina Del Capitano that included a pasta bar for lunch got excellent reviews from those who dined there. We tried the dinner at the Italian venue and still remember elegant desserts.

 

Family Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic dessertsFurthermore, the Breakfast at the Lido featured a wide selection of dishes that were worth sampling. For patrons who enjoyed Mexican grub, the Burrito Bar offered freshly made snacks.

Family Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic restaurant

Our Cabin

We stayed in room 1338 with an additional tub and toilet for kids to use.
Our cabin was outfitted with solid red accents as well as colorful wall artwork along with white bedding. The bathroom areas in our room boasted white and celery green hues.
Two of the beds in the cabin were on the ground level, but the third one was lofted and could be reached by climbing and down a ladder. The loft bed did have safety railing on it to keep those sleeping there from accidentally falling out.

Family Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic beds

The desk area had a sizable mirror hung on the wall nearby, which enabled the space to double as a vanity if necessary. A small flat screen television was located directly across from the largest bed. The porthole window was beside that bed as well.

There was plenty of storage space in the cabin itself, including various cabinets and two closets that were set up to hold at least a week’s worth of gear. We found life jackets in the cabinet in the event of an emergency. There were also drink glasses, an ice bucket, and a stool provided for guests to use.
Family Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic porthole

The two bathroom areas looked much the same, except one had a shower, and the other contained a tub. Another noticeable difference between them was the size of the sink; counter .the bathroom with the shower had a larger sink.

Family Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic tv

Autism Travel Tips

Any parents with kids that needed accommodations should stop by the customer service desk as soon as they board the ship.
The cruise line does not provide any slip mats for the bathrooms so parents might want to pack their own.
Both bathroom facilities had safety bars, so those with mobility issues or those that are handicapped could easily wash up without worrying about falls.
Travelers should also note that the smoke in the casino area can be thick at times so visiting the facility is probably not a good idea for patrons with asthma.

Loud music is played in the Italian themed restaurant during the day and evening which might be an issue for noise sensitive kids.

Family Cruising Aboard Mariner of the Sea

family-cruising

 

 

Mariner of the Seas operates under the Royal Caribbean banner and is one of the five Voyager vessels owned by the company. Revamped back in 2012, the ship now offers, even more, family friendly cruising opportunities.

What Makes it Family Worthy?

In general, cruises are ideal for fuss-free family vacations since travelers get to pack and unpack only once while traveling. Moreover, there  are many activities for everyone on such voyages, so boredom is unlikely to strike

Family Friendly Cruising Aboard Mariner of the Sea promenade

Fellow Travelers

Families are the leading group of travelers found on board this ship, but a good amount of retirees and couples travel on this vessel as well.

Family Friendly Cruising Aboard Mariner of the Sea symbol

Amenities

We got to cruise this splendid ship twice. Both our trips were to the Mexican Riviera, and we were not disappointed.
Though, gambling may be a favorite activity for some, there are many other shipboard pastimes that travelers can enjoy.

Rock climbing, ice skating, swimming, exercising, and shopping are all a fun way to spend the hours in between shore excursions. The ship offered a variety of shows and activities the most popular of which was by far the ice skating show.
Family Friendly Cruising Aboard Mariner of the Sea display

 

Our kids found the dishes served on the Mariner are quite tasty, especially the entrees served in the three leveled main dining room. The service was also outstanding. Indeed, many of the staff members go above and beyond to ensure that their customers have a pleasant voyage.A word of caution to parents of noise sensitive kids- there are at least two nights in the dining room that the staff sing for the guests which can be quite noisy.

Also,  we enjoyed dining at a specialty dining venue –Portofino which featured excellent Italian cuisine.

Family Friendly Cruising Aboard Mariner of the Sea dish

When out of our cabins our family spent most of the time on the twelfth and eleventh decks. The eleventh had the solarium which was an adults only zone while the twelfth had the sports activities, kids clubs, and a Johnny Rockets burger joint.
The Royal Promenade was a second favorite. With its shopping venues, pizza parlor, sandwich, and ice cream spots as well as parties and parades there was not a dull moment there.

Family Friendly Cruising Aboard Mariner of the Sea jrockets

Our connecting cabins

We stayed in connecting cabins 7595 and 7597 on the Promenade Deck.Our promenade facing cabins rooms had green carpeting with a fern leaf pattern on the floor and striped curtains. Many of the items in the suites were constructed from pale colored wood. However, the couches matched the carpeting and the linens on the beds were white. The bathroom in our suite had multicolored tile flooring as well as colorful accents throughout.

Family Friendly Cruising Aboard Mariner of the Sea jeff

Our beds had comfortable sheets and plentiful pillows on them. The window in the suite overlooked the area where the night parades took place, which gave us an excellent vantage point and helped us avoid the crowds. Our rooms also contained a sizeable closet that had plenty of shelves and built in wooden hangers. It also housed the in-room safe.

More shelving units were found above the older style television. The television sat on a large, thin cabinet that was capable of holding even more of our belongings. A large mirror was placed above the typical desk area so that it could also serve as a vanity. A small, well-stocked fridge was included in the rooms, but the items found within cost extra, as is typical of the goodies found in most mini bars.

Family Friendly Cruising Aboard Mariner of the Sea climb

Our Bathrooms

The bathrooms were located close to the entrance doors. We found these facilities to be both spacious and well thought out. The shower pods in our cabins had a raised up section at its base so that the water did not splash out all over the floor.

There was a safety bar in the shower area, and the shower head could be used as a handheld device if necessary. Most of the towels that were provided were on a shelf that was high above the toilet, but there were also two additional towel racks at lower heights.

Extra toilet paper was readily available in the bathrooms, but it was somewhat thinner in texture than we would have preferred. The shelves under the sink had both a trash bin and a tissue dispenser. Cups for toothbrushes were also included near the large mirror.

 

Family Friendly Cruising Aboard Mariner of the Sea pool

Autism Travel Tips.

For walking around the ship, flip flops with a non-slip sole are highly recommended.
Parents should try to book entertainment shows tickets ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
They should let the ship staff know if their kids need accommodations ahead of time.l
Parents should consider booking promenade facing rooms for kids that are noise sensitive.  These rooms block out the noise but still lets kids watch the nightly parades.
Since nonslip mats are not provided, families should pack their own for the bathrooms.

 

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