By Allison Tibaldi, Taking the Kids contributor
DAY FOUR ON THE ROYAL CARIBBEAN FREEDOM OF THE SEAS — In spite of all the fun we were having onboard, I was dreaming of sifting my toes in soft sand, surrounded by palm trees and turquoise water.
Our port of call was Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Royal Caribbean simplifies the process of exploring each destination by offering dozens of shore excursions. There is a tour for everyone, from thrill-seekers to families traveling with toddlers, so the crew will help you find the excursion that suits your needs. We booked an afternoon boat ride to a secluded beach, which gave us the morning free to explore.
St. Thomas is known for its shopping bargains, but neither Alec nor I are big shoppers, so we walked around the port, trying to soak up a bit of local color. We decided to go back to the ship, as we had an hour before our excursion. This proved to be a terrific idea, because we had the ship practically to ourselves. I swam laps in the pool and Alec luxuriated in the cantilevered whirlpool. Both venues were usually crowded, but today they were our own private Paradise.
We were properly relaxed for our ride on the Legendary Kon Tiki Sightseeing and Beach Cruise. The boat has three glass-bottomed viewers so we got a look at a coral reef. Our guides told us a bit about the history of the island, peppering the commentary with pop-culture nuggets about the celebrities who own homes here. We arrived at Honeymoon Beach on Water Island and weren’t deterred by the threatening clouds.
We immediately dove in, the crystal-clear water bathtub-warm despite the raindrops. We enjoyed a few hours of tropical bliss before it was time to leave. The ride back was a non-stop party, with dancing, a limbo contest and a live steel drum band. I wasn’t the only middle-aged parent getting into the spirited scene, so Alec wasn’t alone in his embarrassment.
I couldn’t believe this was already our last night. As I reflected on our trip, I thought about how a Freedom of the Seas vacation can be what you want it to be. You can be active and try new sports, relax poolside, read a book in the library, gamble in the casinos or shop-till-you-drop at the onboard shops. You can book adventurous shore excursions or never stray from the ship’s cocoon. You can leave your children at the kid’s club for hours on end, spend all your time en famille.
Nearly everyone I met was a repeat cruiser, and all were supremely satisfied with their vacation choice. If you are considering a holiday with the grandparents, I met many multi-generational families who were firmly committed to annual cruise vacations. With so many shipboard options and with meals, activities, entertainment and kid’s club included, the appeal is clear. If I have my way, I will soon be back for second helpings.