Cruisenotes

Shipwrecked

Friday 3 May 2024

Our day at the Kennedy Space Center was just the start of 2 weeks in Florida. The main reason we were there was to go on a cruise with Lila’s Mum and Stepdad, her stepsiblings, and their kids.

It was a strange experience, and a type of holiday that most people from Europe don’t do, so I thought I’d write about it.

The ship

We were on the second biggest cruise ship in the world, the Wonder of the Seas. It’s big, but after a week it felt small.

The top deck has waterslides and pools, and a few outdoor bars. The pools are small, so it’s more like a Hieronymus Bosch waterpark with little demon children everywhere. There’s an adult only section, but it’s got a plastic roof so it heats up like a PVC conservatory. When it was very hot outside, it was was too hot in there.

Wonder has a central atrium with an outdoor boardwalk at one end, while the middle has an outdoor park. It’s weird, but a nice space. They even play bird noises in a nice touch of climate emergency dystopia.

Food

There’s a main buffet open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food is fine. Ironically, the Indian food is probably the best thing there. My guess is because lots of the staff are Indian they know how to cook good food.

There’s a huge dining hall for people to have a sitdown meal each night. The food there is fine too. The menus are themed on a cuisine, but for example, one night was Italian and the main was a lasagna and it was fine.

Those are both all-inclusive, but there’s extra restaurants that aren’t included. We didn’t bother with any of those so I can’t comment, but I wouldn’t hold out any hope of any better food.

Alcohol

There’s an extra all-inclusive drinks package. Working out the cost came to ~£1100 for both of us. Everyone in your cabin needs to take the package. We had decided not to do that in the run up to it, but our first drink of 2 cocktails would’ve cost us $40, so on the first day we changed our mind and splurged.

We worked it out afterwards in the Royal Caribbean app and reckon it would’ve cost us roughly double if we hadn’t had the drinks package.

There were rumours of a 15 minute time limit on how frequently you can get drinks. I’m definitely not advocating you get free drinks and give them to people in your group who don’t have the drinks package, but there’s nothing stopping you.

Entertainment

There’s a few shows each day that work like game shows including Mr & Mrs, and The World’s Sexiest Man competition. A 75 year old man won that and clinched it with his answer to “if you were a drink what type of drink would you be” - a 40 ounce Corona because he likes beer.

In the evening there was some standup and an aqua theatre show on different days. One night had a Marvel rip off musical in the theatre.

Islands

We stopped at three islands, with the first one owned by the cruise line - CocaCay. The adult only beach was an extra charge for the day, but we found a free beach on the other side of the island to sit on for the day.

St Thomas was up next and didn’t have more than a few main streets selling jewelry and tourist tat.

St Martin/Sint Maarten was the last and was a bit more interesting. We had an excursion booked for what is apparently the World’s Steepest Zipline. It was a pretty scary view from the top of the mountain but a lot of fun on the way back down. The coach drivers who took us to and from the mountain were entertaining tour guides, explaining the weird setup of the island by having 2 of everything - 2 countries, 2 governments, 2 passports, 2 capital cities, 2 airports, 2 wives for each man, and 2 coach drivers who repeated the same joke.

Review

We were in a group of 20 people so it was nice to see Lila’s family when they live in Canada, but we wouldn’t do a cruise if it was just the 2 of us. It’s a good holiday if you’ve got kids, as they can do whatever they like with plenty for them to do.

With lots costing being extra, it’s a high end shopping mall at sea. I spotted tours of the ship in the app and suggested we do those only to discover it cost an extra $200 per person.

The restaurants and bars present a simulation of atmosphere exactly like a mall and lack any level of authenticity that you might want to experience when you visit another country. Maybe that appeals to some people, but I didn’t enjoy it.

It reminded me a lot of how simulated and fake Las Vegas felt. The ship even has a casino room specifically for the smokers.

Tips

If you still want to go, here’s some tips:

  • Get a sea facing cabin so you have some level of privacy from people looking in your window.
  • Don’t stay in a cabin on the highest cabin deck. Above that deck will be the buffet dining area, so you’ll be woken up to sounds of cooking, moving furniture, and lots of footsteps.
  • Book an excursion every day the ship is docked. You may as well go and do some experience that you can’t do elsewhere. We regretted not booking a sea turtle snorkeling session on St Thomas.
  • Bring a good book, or 2. You’ll be sitting around a lot so have something to entertain you. They charged $30 per day to use the Internet, so maybe a digital detox is better?