We read a post from Alyson from World Travel Family (link below) about cruising and thought it was worth a go. http://worldtravelfamily.com/finding-cheap-cruises/
We looked around and found a 16 night crossing from Barcelona to Florida including food for less than an economy flight ticket, even I (a terrible mariner) thought it was too good to pass up.
Waiting to board
The kids bunk in the cabin. We had an inside cabin pretty low in the ship with the idea that that would reduce the rocking (kind of worked). While we missed having natural light/air the cabin was really comfortable, Ali and I had two single beds pushed together (so a very spacious double bed) and the kids had bunk beds. There wasn't much room; no more than one person could really stand at one time, but the storage was good and the bathroom spacious. All in all better than a lot of hotels we've stayed in.
One of the best things about the cruise was the crew, they were just amazing. F&G were on first name basis with half of them by the end and were spoilt rotten. Admittedly they were a bit of a novelty representing 1/10th of the children out of a total of 1,600 passengers.
Most of the crew seemed to come from the Phillippines and many had young children at home, it made us very grateful for what we have. We found out that they don't get internet access for free (ours cost nearly $300 for the two weeks) so even keeping in touch with their kids is hard, most seemed to wait for a port day to log-in on land.
Kid's got coaxed into an impromptu photo shoot.
My favourite view from the promenade, which I used as my main exercise circuit.
The kids took part in the kids club on board, and absolutely loved it. It definitely helped going during the off-season as there were only 25 kids in the club. To put that in perspective the week after ours (thanksgiving week) they were going to have 500 kids on board.
Here they put on a show, G learning the motions of juggling with tissues.
Fred doing the Diabolo, does it much better than I.
The ship stopped off at several islands along the way to allow us to stretch our legs.
At Madeira (still on the European side of the Atlantic) was our first stop and last before the Caribbean. Having only been a couple of days aboard, we mainly stretched our legs, thankfully 15 min walk from the ship was a nice park with a playground and trees to climb.
Next stop was Antigua. After 5/6 days at sea we were desperate to get off.
Thanks to our internet connection, Ali booked us a rental car and it was waiting for us as we arrived. We were recommended a quiet beach and armed with a basic map of the island, off we went. The beach was empty apart from a family of fishermen and two pelicans it was great.
After our swim it was time for lunch, Ali had been recommended Falmouth, so we crossed the island and had a fantastic (though expensive) lunch right on the harbour.
Falmouth and English harbour definitely represent the well healed part of the island. Unfortunately (or perhaps because) they are on the opposite side from where the cruise ships dock.
It's rather pretty.
To return to the ship we took the Old Road which hugs the south and western coast. It was absolutely gorgeous.
Next stop St Kitts & Nevis
Here we took one of the arranged tours for a close encounter with Dante the Dolphin.
They're just amazing creatures, it was a privilege to meet him.
All the dolphins were born in captivity, with little chance of surviving in the wild without a pod.
At the end of the encounter we encouraged to buy photos at exorbitant prices 1 for $100 and the lot on a CD for $200 odd. Ali and I looked at each other and went pit but no way so we walked out of the shop. We were promptly chased and asked what we could afford. After some reflexion (it would be a pity to miss out on the photos) we went back in and offered $85 for the CD, deal done. I'd imagine we could have gone lower but in the end the photos are pretty cool.
Next Up St. Marteen
From the cruise ships the best way to the town is by water taxi.
St Marteen is really charming at least compared to the other two stop overs we had.
We saw this good lucking fella on the walk back to the ship.
Our last stop was St Thomas, but after three days in a row off the boat and rain forecast we decided to stay on board.
While the Island stops were a nice diversion, a cruise is a pretty poor way to see them, you get little more than a flavour and it's a bit full-on with kids.
Would I do it again? Yes, particularly an East bound crossing to avoid the jet lag.