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The truth about cruising: myth dispelled and magic embraced

The truth about cruising: myth dispelled and magic embraced


by Dominique McMullan
06th Sep 2023

Dominique McMullan didn’t consider herself a cruiser, and then she spent a week on board Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas.

I’ve always had a wanderlust. I’ve backpacked around Central America. I’ve slept on beaches in South-East Asia. I take pride in my love for the thrill of the unknown, willingly diving into uncharted waters and occasionally, happily, finding myself in tricky situations. This is all to say that I didn’t think cruising was for me. 

Yet, as life evolves, so do our aspirations and as I step aboard my first cruise on Odyssey Of The Seas, I’m hoping to discover something new, and something that might even make life easier and keep travel on the agenda for my young family. 

I’m a mum of two young kids and now, when I take time off, I quite like the idea of (wait for it…) a bit of rest. My new holiday itinerary has to give me three things – recuperation time, comfort and of course, some new experiences for the memory bank. So, while I still yearn for new experiences and fortuitous fun, I was ready for pensioners and crooners, tan lines and tack. 

And then I spent a week on Odyssey Of The Seas. I will tell you now that a cruise on board Odyssey Of The Seas is not a chic white-linens-blowing-in-the-wind type of boat trip – but boy oh boy, is it fun. And before long I found myself, to my surprise, having the time of my life, comfortable and happy, all while exploring the beautiful Greek islands and the Amalfi coast. 

Exploring Odyssey Of The Seas

The lingering misconception that cruising is for pensioners is an interesting one. The truth, in reality, is that modern cruising is tailor-made for families. 

When travelling with young children, which I have, striking a balance between exploration and ease is paramount. The mere thought of arranging car rentals, enduring subpar accommodations, and hunting for suitable dining options can be hair-raising. The ideal scenario involves seamlessly offering a peaceful nap to one child while serving another a plate of chips and ketchup – all without breaking a sweat.

And here is where cruising becomes the harbinger of convenience and ultimate gratification.

Imagine being able to travel around the Greek islands without ever having to pack or unpack the kids’ stuff and sleeping in the same bedroom every night. Imagine having the ability to get off the boat and see beautiful Santorini, while your child is happy and safe, playing bumper cars and Nintendo. The dream. 

The complimentary, award-winning Adventure Ocean Youth Program caters for kids from three all the way up to 12, with specialised programmes in multi-room spaces designed just for them, including hands-on art, science and tech workshops. They will mind your kids as you explore the boat, have some quiet pool time, or even hop off for a few hours at one of the destinations the ship docks at (in this case; Santorini, Mykonos, Naples and Kusadasi).

Teenagers in particular are catered for impressively on board. In fact, the uppermost deck of the ship is reserved entirely for 13-17 year olds. So strictly is this “no adult” area enforced, that you have to scan your sea card (which everyone in the ship gets on day one) to get in and will not be given access if you are over or under age. If a large, adult-free patio, filled with deck chairs and comfy loungers is not their bag though, they can chill with the latest gaming consoles, music and movies in their very own lounge right next door. 

Outside of Adventure Ocean, kids and teens have so many activities available to them. They can try their hand at surfing on the FlowRider surf simulator; take flight on a (slightly terrifying) skydiving experience; or scale the 40-foot-tall rock wall. Then there is SeaPlex, which is the largest indoor activity space at sea and features a full-sized sports court, the only bumper cars at sea, a trapeze, interactive VR games and a glow-in-the-dark laser tag arena. I mean really.

Something for everyone

But it’s not just for kids. The ship is huge, so it’s no surprise that there is something for everyone here. If you focus on food alone, there are 25 food and drink venues – that’s enough to visit three different places, each day in a week. I particularly loved the Teppenyaki restaurant for entertainment (Elvis our chef was something else); and Chops Grille for a really good steak and chips. But there are bistros, cocktail bars (one where you will be served by a robot arm), a pizza place, an Italian, a Mexican, a Japanese and an Alice In Wonderland themed restaurant – to name a few. 

Then of course there is the main dining room and The Windjammer Restaurant. The Windjammer is a buffet, the likes of which I have never seen, with every cuisine from every corner of the world available on tap all day long. The main dining room is where guests enjoy their complimentary evening meals and are treated like royalty by the incredibly charming wait staff, who know you by name. If that wasn’t enough, each evening the staff dance, congo-line-style, through the dining room. Who knew staff dance routines at dinner could be so delightful?

The ship is utterly convenient, with so many amenities it’s hard to list them all. The pool deck has multiple levels and numerous pools and jacuzzis, as well as a big screen to entertain the kids and a few cocktail bars to entertain the adults. There is also Splashaway Bay – a mini waterpark for kids with a waterslide, fountains, and shallow, colourful areas. If that’s all a little rowdy for you, in the Solarium (an over 18s space) you can find quiet spaces, jacuzzis, a bar and a bistro. The spa, while perhaps a touch rudimentary, has every treatment you would expect, and more, available: including teeth whitening. I had a blow dry and was delighted with the results. 

As the sun sets, (the childminding facilities are open until midnight!) you can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the ship with a visit to The North Star, a glass observation capsule that takes guests more than 300 feet above the ocean for 360-degree views. I recommend doing that one at sunset for an extra special, memory bank experience. In the evening there are plenty of shows to keep you entertained – whether that be at The Royal Theatre, The Music Hall or the innovative Two70 theatre. We had a great time watching the karaoke and placing a few bets in the casino too. 

We thoroughly enjoyed each stop off, spending 6-8 hours off the ship in each location. While not immersing ourselves in the local culture due to the time limitations, the days spent in Santorini, Mykonos, Naples and Kusadasi nonetheless gave us a real sense of each place and I will admit that it was quite lovely to head back to the familiarity of the air conditioned ship and my beautiful stateroom. 

All in all, my week cruising surprised and delighted me – giving me exactly what I was looking for – recuperation time, comfort and of course, new experiences for the memory bank. But next time, I’ll be bringing the kids. 

Royal Caribbean International is offering 2024 European cruise itineraries onboard Odyssey of the Seas, from £921 for 7 nights. To book, or for more information , please visit: http://www.royalcaribbean.com/gbr/en.

Dominique McMullan was a guest of Royal Caribbean.