Where: We joined Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas in Miami and cruised around the Eastern Caribbean, visiting the Bahamas, the US Virgin Island of St Thomas and St Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles before sailing back into Miami.
Best for: All ages. Adventure Ocean kids’ clubs start from three years. There’s a nursery for babies and tots, too, while teens never need stop with all the active pursuits available.
Why: With our oldest son, Sam, off to university in September, we were keen to spend some family time together along with our younger son, Charlie, 16. The boys are quite active but are often hooked up to the internet so we wanted a trip with a good array of things to do. The Allure of the Seas certainly fitted the bill — the largest passenger cruise ship in the world, it features several pools, a gym, a full-size FlowRider surf machine, a climbing wall, zip-line and an ice rink, as well as an AquaTheater, Broadway-style shows, and an incredible outdoor tree-lined Central Park with bars, cafes, and restaurants.
Highs: Whether surfing on the FlowRider, snorkelling in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean off the coast of St Thomas, deep-water swimming with dolphins in Nassau, or power rafting in St Maarten, our week was full of excitement and tremendous fun.
Lows: On sea days, the main pool areas of the ship can be quite busy. We were lucky we could use the Solarium — the over-16s area at the front of the ship. If we wanted to use the main pools we tended to wait until early evening when the younger families headed in for dinner. Sharing a small stateroom was sometimes a squeeze, but with so much to do, we really didn’t spend too much time in the room, and with some negotiation over bathroom timing, we managed quite well.
Good for parents? The great thing about cruising is the amount of freedom you can give your teenagers. We never once worried about where the boys were or what they were doing, and it was fantastic to see them away from their phones and Xboxes, zip-lining, socialising, swimming and surfing.
Good for teenagers? The sheer size of the Allure of the Seas meant the boys could strike out on their own and explore. They filled their days with activities both on and off the ship and soon had a huge group of friends they met up with every day, and still keep in touch with now we’re home.
Would you do it again? We fell in love with cruising. The boys discovered a brand new social life and had the most incredible experiences, while we had time together to relax and unwind. We all want our children to see the world and visiting four countries in the space of a week is a pretty good start.
How to do it: The Allure of the Seas began sailing out of Barcelona this summer. You can also join Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas, on an eight-night Eastern Caribbean fly/cruise from £1,515 per person (based on two people sharing an interior stateroom). Price includes return flights from Heathrow, one night pre-cruise hotel stay, transfers and an eight-night cruise departing from Cape Liberty (New Jersey, US), and calling at San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Labadee (Haiti) before returning to Cape Liberty.
Published in the Summer 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller – Family