The wet slush on your boots, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…. combined with fighting with car to start it’s no wonder thousands of Canadians flee to warmer climates for a brief respite from winter. With warmer weather on our minds my wife uncovered an unexpected deal on Royal Caribbean last January! It’s been a while since we cruised and with the kids being old enough to appreciate the experience, but young enough that their education wouldn’t be disrupted, it didn’t take long for us to jump on the opportunity.
A few quick tips if you’re new to cruising
- If you live in southern Ontario, look for flight deals in Buffalo or Detroit. Even with the exchange rate airlines like Southwest sometimes are providing trips with steep discounts. For this trip we departed a day early from the Buffalo airport which is about a 2 hour drive from Kitchener, Waterloo and flew on Southwest Airlines to Ft. Lauderdale.
- Arrive at your departure port a day in advance especially if you’re coming from an area that experiences real winter. Dealing with the weather is unpredictable and this will give you some time to adjust your schedule if you’re delayed.
- Getting to your destination a day earlier gives you time to pick up last minute items that you may have forgotten, or allow you to pick up a bottle of wine to take with you on board the ship. If you don’t have a beverage plan, this can save you quite a bit of money due to corkage fees.
- If you don’t drink there’s usually free lemonade or iced tea available on board. Most of the time I don’t drink soda pop and usually stick with iced tea at meals; for all the other times I’m drinking water.
We had a gorgeous departure day with slightly cloudy skies – warm with no snow in sight. Watching the parade of cruise ships departing port for ocean is amazing as you can see how how nimble these behemoths are as they navigate out to to the ocean while much smaller freighters needed a little assistance from tugboats.
Cruise ships have plenty of activities to keep you busy. Besides just eating and drinking, you can find water slides, rock climbing walls, golf simulators and more! Royal Caribbean signature activity is their flow rider that allows you to ride boogie boards and see how long you can remain upright before making a big splash!
There are two main benefits on ship when cruising in the winter:
- There are not many kids on board which means parents don’t have to the Kids Club for day care. The clubs give parents a nice break to be by themselves without feeling guilty that their children aren’t having a good time. On this particular cruise I think we counted maybe 20 kids at any given time being taken care of by the staff.
- For those who are not travelling with children – enjoy your day without having to deal with kids running around your feet!
As this was a January cruise, the low number of children allowed for those on board to really explore and take advantage of everything the ship has to offer. The H20 splash zone was practically empty allow my children to run around without worrying that they’ll collide into someone!
Every day there’s some kind of activity happening around the pool. Watching the belly flop contest was one of the highlights on this trip – I wasn’t brave enough to join, but I salute all those who bruised themselves for everyone else’s entertainment!
To give you a sense of scale of how large cruise ships are these days, on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, there is an entire deck that is configured like a long shopping mall. Places to eat and shop to your heart’s content. There’s even a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop and an ice rink where you can skate or catch an evening ice show on ship!
One of the things I didn’t realize I would enjoy is watching the sun set over the ocean. Amazing colors that you don’t often get to see being land locked in Southern Ontario. Golds, marine blues and deep cherry reds. You can lose yourself watching the sun rise and fall each day.
If you managed to take a five day cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale, convince yourself that you need to spend a few days touring around this city before rushing back to the snow. This city has extensive beaches that reminded us of being on a TV Show. Swimming, Kite Surfing, and even getting married are just some of the things you can do and see while strolling around.
If you consider the all-in costs of getting away for a beach holiday vs. a cruise the price is almost comparable. Considering that your hotel, meals and entertainment are all included it turns out the price is almost identical. So what are you waiting for? If you need a break from the wintery weather taking a cruise is an option that you definitely should consider!