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Planning first RCCL cruise for family


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Hello good people. I'm in the first stages of planning a big 'ol Florida vacation with our family of six in 2023: 2 adults, and 4 boys who will be 16, 13 or 14 (depends on if it's June or July), 11, and 8. We're from SLC, Utah and we've only cruised Carnival so far. This would be our kids 2nd cruise. One of the things we'd really like to do there is take the kids on a Coco Caye cruise. We also have a friend in Ft. Lauderdale who will plan to visit and go to Disney World with. And while we're there we also might want visit Everglades National Park and Key West. Anywho, I like to plan early so I want to see what kind of room(s) we should get once they open up for summer 2023... should we call and book a family size room or go for adjoining rooms? We don't need anything fancy as we're just going to do a 3-day, because we really just want to go Coco Caye and don't care about the other ports. 

So.. should we pick a ship out of Miami, FLL, or Orlando (Port Canaveral)? We'll base our other vacation days around our cruise. But with having a friend in FLL area it might make sense to cruise out of there and stay with her family for the night. I don't know what else to ask, really, just trying to get a feel for what we should plan and see if all you lovelies have any tips or advice for us. Thanks! 

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21 minutes ago, EMOSEA said:

should we call and book a family size room or go for adjoining rooms?

You can search 2022 sailings to get an idea of price differences between two or three cabins. Don't try to put all 6 of you in one cabin.

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Congratulations on starting your planning! That can be stressful but fun too!. Our two boys are now 22 and almost 28 but we started with them when they were in elementary school. Once they got to be the age your boys are we did two staterooms. You can do two side by side rooms (sometimes connecting with a door) or you can do one across the hall from you. This is what we did usually as we didn't feel we needed to get the boys a balcony of their own when we upgraded from window view only rooms. The boys never minded the interior room with no window. The website might force you to book one adult in each room (you can switch on board) but if you call or use a good TA you can book them directly in their own room as long as they are right next to you or right across the hall. You could choose to put all 4 in one stateroom and you and your spouse have a room to yourself, or you could keep the younger one with you. With two rooms you will have two bathrooms/showers 🙂

 

We made Coco Cay only once- and that was well before what it is now! Tips about Royal that we have learned....let me think. We made only one big rule once the boys got older- they must be at dinner with us. We had check in times during the day if they weren't in the kids club. We used post-it notes in the stateroom or they could leave us a voice mail on the stateroom phone. The staff love serving the kids. Our boys figured out early that for dessert they could ask our waiter for a plate of their favorite chocolate chip cookies to go and they would bring them each a plate with a to-go cover for those late night snacks!

 

We have to yet sail out of Miami (October will be our first). Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades) is super easy and close to everything. Port Canaveral is good too, but it is a drive from Orlando. Pick the itinerary you like the best and the ship you are most interested in. Entertainment on Royal is top notch. Our boys always enjoyed the shows. If an Oasis Class ship the shows in the aqua theater are amazing. The skating shows on the ice rinks (on most ships) are so good too! The athletic performers are often Olympians in their home countries and you will note the small Olympic ring tatts that many of them sport.

 

Key West as the crow flies doesn't look that far away, but A1A is a two lane highway and you usually will drive 50 mph or less! My first time to Key West I was at a training conference for the BSA at Sea Base and we had an afternoon/evening off to see the sites. We were on Lower Matecumbe in Islamorada (mile marker 73.8) and so the drive down was 73 miles and took 2.5 hours at least due to a bad accident on our way.

 

Enjoy the planning and don't be afraid to ask questions.

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Best bet might be to just get two adjoining cabins or maybe even 3. There's only so many cabins that can hold 6 people and they tend to be the more expensive ones. Though even then unless it's a room with at least two bathrooms I'd pass. I'd look at each option and just go with the cheaper one. 

 

If it's a 3 day it doesn't really matter between Miami and Canaveral. It's pretty much the same amount of time at Nassau and Coco Cay. Miami cruises are often cheaper though. And the port is closer to other stuff while Canaveral is a good hour from Disney. 

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I'd get 2 adjoining cabins: 1 adult and 2 kids per each.

Try to play around with numbers: see whether it's cheaper to book 1 cabin with 1 adult and 3 kids, and an adjoining cabin with 1 adult and 1 kid, or 2 cabins with 1 adult and 2 kids in each.

 

We love RCI for everything they have to offer in terms of great entertainment and family/kid activities. Our kid was on RCI at 3, 8 and was supposed to be at 9 as well but 2020 happened, so instead we are looking forward to cruising with RCI this November (he is 10 now). This will be our second time at Coco Cay - the first one was before DS was even born!

 

This will be our first time sailing from Port Canaveral (we are flying to Orlando). We have previously sailed from Port Everglades (FLL airport) and Port of Miami. We found that flights from ATL to FLL are usually much cheaper than ATL to MIA, so we always fly to FLL. As to which port to sail out of - makes no difference to us which FL port it is. We go by the ship/itinerary/price combination.

 

 

44 minutes ago, EMOSEA said:

We don't need anything fancy as we're just going to do a 3-day, because we really just want to go Coco Caye and don't care about the other ports. 

oh, no, you didn't just say that.... You simply MUST go on a 6-7 day cruise with your kids - RCI ships offer so much! What's the use of planning a cruise 2 years in advance if you are going to end up on a booze cruise for college students?

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9 minutes ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

 

 

 

oh, no, you didn't just say that.... You simply MUST go on a 6-7 day cruise with your kids - RCI ships offer so much! What's the use of planning a cruise 2 years in advance if you are going to end up on a booze cruise for college students?

I would LOVE to, but vacation days and budget are a factor as well. It's pretty pricey to fly a family of 6 to FL to do a cruise and Disney. Hopefully it won't be our one and only and the kids will know if they'll like Carnival or Royal better for our next one (we promised our kiddos a graduation cruise so it won't be too long until we do it again). 

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I would definitely look at connecting cabins or even across the hall from each other.  For my boys, they are big enough that we can put them in a room next to us without having a connecting door and that usually saves us some money!  We have also looked at interior cabin for them and balcony for us.  Note that you are going to either have to call or use a travel agent to book multiple rooms because the online system requires that one person in each cabin is over 18.  For the ages of your boys, they would like Oasis or one of the amplified ships to give you plenty of activities to keep them busy!  

 

My family finds that it is easiest to depart out of Orlando because we can get the most direct flight options that way.  It also makes it easy to add on a night or two at Disney.  We cruised on RCL because Coco Cay was on my son's bucket list and it did not disappoint.  

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We have a large family too and understand that airfare is a significant expense when you have many children.  Many times it actually becomes the deciding factor.  Just a "big family - small cabin" hint:  You can take advantage of the showers at the gym/spa area on most ships if you have too many people trying to shower at once in your cabin(s).  They are actually bigger and nicer than the showers in your cabin.  They have towels down there so you don't need to bring.  I'd vote for something out of Port Canaveral so you can include Disney/Universal.  With the ages your boys are that would be a perfect vacation.

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43 minutes ago, WisconsinFan said:

 

 

Key West as the crow flies doesn't look that far away, but A1A is a two lane highway and you usually will drive 50 mph or less! My first time to Key West I was at a training conference for the BSA at Sea Base and we had an afternoon/evening off to see the sites. We were on Lower Matecumbe in Islamorada (mile marker 73.8) and so the drive down was 73 miles and took 2.5 hours at least due to a bad accident on our way.

 

Enjoy the planning and don't be afraid to ask questions.


Thanks for this! Key West is just one of those places I'd like to visit someday, but we don't *have* to do it. Visiting a National Park was how I talked DH into doing this trip, lol, so I can't axe that one. 

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2 minutes ago, Travelling2Some said:

We have a large family too and understand that airfare is a significant expense when you have many children.  Many times it actually becomes the deciding factor.  Just a "big family - small cabin" hint:  You can take advantage of the showers at the gym/spa area on most ships if you have too many people trying to shower at once in your cabin(s).  They are actually bigger and nicer than the showers in your cabin.  They have towels down there so you don't need to bring.  I'd vote for something out of Port Canaveral so you can include Disney/Universal.  With the ages your boys are that would be a perfect vacation.


Thanks! We definitely do want to do Disney while we're there, and my friend in FLL area that we're planning to visit actually works for Disney so she's planning on saving some of her buddy passes for us so we can all go together. That will definitely help with the cost, Disney World is more expensive than taking the kids on a cruise! 

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1 minute ago, EMOSEA said:


Thanks! We definitely do want to do Disney while we're there, and my friend in FLL area that we're planning to visit actually works for Disney so she's planning on saving some of her buddy passes for us so we can all go together. That will definitely help with the cost, Disney World is more expensive than taking the kids on a cruise! 

That's wonderful.  Disney's prices are becoming extortionate, frankly.  The Unofficial Guide had a chart showing the price of WDW tickets in comparison to income over the years and just how out of proportion that has become for middle class people.  I'm glad we could take our kids every few years while they were growing up but I'm sorry that they are pricing so many families out now.  It's a shame.

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I am doing a Disney/Universal/Cruise this year in Oct but with all adults. It will get very expensive, so doing a 3 or 4 night cruise and taking advantage of any discounts and deals is a must. I would say based on logistics and cost, fly to either Orlando or FLL. We are doing 2 days Universal , 3 days Disney and a 7 night cruise on allure in a Suite. Thanks to a lot of prep and budgeting I got it down to $4100 pp with everything included... with adults there is the cost of  alcohol. The tickets for the theme parks amounted to more than half the cost of the cruise!!!

 

I would suggest 2 interior rooms, as the kids will be out exploring the ship or CocoCay. On a shorter cruise and if you do the parks beforehand, I suggest, then you won't be spending much in the rooms. So real estate should be on the lesser price spectrum.

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2 hours ago, EMOSEA said:

I would LOVE to, but vacation days and budget are a factor as well. It's pretty pricey to fly a family of 6 to FL to do a cruise and Disney. Hopefully it won't be our one and only and the kids will know if they'll like Carnival or Royal better for our next one (we promised our kiddos a graduation cruise so it won't be too long until we do it again). 

If you want to a shorter cruise, try a 4 day cruise.   That gives you a sea day to enjoy the ship and the 4 day sailings are more family friendly than a 3 day 

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Just now, Crazy planning mom said:

If you want to a shorter cruise, try a 4 day cruise.   That gives you a sea day to enjoy the ship and the 4 day sailings are more family friendly than a 3 day 

 If we take out trying to squeeze in Key West, I think we we could do a 4-day. Thanks! 

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1 hour ago, Crazy planning mom said:

If you want to a shorter cruise, try a 4 day cruise.   That gives you a sea day to enjoy the ship and the 4 day sailings are more family friendly than a 3 day 

Exactly what I was going to suggest. Very often, the 3-day cruises are basically floating frat parties 😳  I tried them a couple of times, but it just wasn't worth it, so I switched to land vacations for long weekend-type getaways.  

 

But just that one extra day makes quite a difference in the atmosphere of the ship, at least in my experience.

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As others have said, do at least two rooms.  The second bathroom with that many people would be a huge bonus.  However, if you aren’t worried about a second bathroom, look for the “ultra spacious” rooms.  These typically have the bed, sofa bed, and a set of bunk beds.  Different classes of ships have different options.  So, some may have ocean view while others have balconies and interiors.

 

 

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16 hours ago, Cutigerlady said:

Note that you are going to either have to call or use a travel agent to book multiple rooms because the online system requires that one person in each cabin is over 18. 

not sure it's needed. I easily booked 2 cabins for 5 people online, as long as each one of them has an adult in it.

 

17 hours ago, EMOSEA said:

I would LOVE to, but vacation days and budget are a factor as well. It's pretty pricey to fly a family of 6 to FL to do a cruise and Disney.

True.

Thankfully, mine is 10 and he cares not for Disney. But he LOVES cruising, and RCI ships are like one big Disney World but without the characters. I went to Disney once on a business trip and was not impressed - too hot, crowded, full of crying, tantrum-throwing kids, or kids who are completely zonked out in strollers (even bigger ones), and you walk for hours and stand in line for hours, yeah, no, thanks, I am good. We would rather cruise for 7-10 days and I always find good deals even though we are severely limited to fall and springs school breaks. 🙂

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18 hours ago, EMOSEA said:

 summer 2023

another thing I thought of - OP, when was the last time you were in Florida during the summer and walked outside all day?

My business trip was in April, and it was HOT and HUMID in Orlando. Like, awful. And I am from GA, which is much closer to FL, and I would assume much more similar climate wise. 🙂 Just something to think about.

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1 minute ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

another thing I thought of - OP, when was the last time you were in Florida during the summer and walked outside all day?

My business trip was in April, and it was HOT and HUMID in Orlando. Like, awful. And I am from GA, which is much closer to FL, and I would assume much more similar climate wise. 🙂 Just something to think about.

I have thought about that. We can also consider for their spring break instead, but we don't know when that is yet 🙂 

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It is definitely expensive to travel with a family this size, maybe you want to do a oceanview with an interior cabin across the hall to keep costs down.   Or look for a promenade cabin that connects, depending on ship.

You trying to cover a lot of territory with disney, a cruise and drive to key west.   Imo you want to do 1 day at universal and at least 2 days with various parks at disney then a 4 day cruise.  

If you have more than 7 days for your vacation then do key west for at least 2 days.  As you know, you have to factor in drive time.   

All 3 ports are easy to board.   Since you can get to any of these ports by car, I wouldnt base my decision on the port.  I would base it on which ship will your family enjoy.

 

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My recommendations.... 

If your boys are reasonably responsible, you could either put the four of them in one room and you next door or across the hall, or even get three rooms with two boys on either side of the parents.  A good travel agent can advise you on how to get the best bang for your buck that way.  No way would I entertain putting six people all in a one-bathroom stateroom.  

I also recommend a 4-day cruise on either an Explorer or Freedom class ship.  (Short cruises on an Oasis class ship are really rare, and unlikely during the time frame and region you're wanting to cruise.) A 3-day cruise just isn't enough to really get the cruise experience.... it takes a day or two to just acclimate to the ship and discover all there is to do, and by the time you get "settled" it's time to get off the ship again!  

If you don't care about the other port (likely Nassau), that's a great time to stay on the ship and enjoy a less-crowded environment... plenty of pool space, shorter lines for the Flowrider and rock wall, etc.  It's also going to give you a decent ROI -- if you can handle inside rooms, you're probably looking at $100/day/person and that includes your lodging, food, activities, and entertainment, and as you know, that's nothing compared to what you'll be paying for each day at Disney!

As for which port to cruise out of, I don't think it really matters.  I would look at the totality of your budget combined with the cruises that meet your needs and decide from there.  Flying into FLL and staying with your friend before cruising out of FLL or MIA might save you a night in a hotel, but then you have travel costs to/from Orlando to consider (and rental car prices are positively insane right now!).  Or airfare costs into Orlando might be lower than airfare into FLL (or vice versa).  So as far as budget, you really just have to make a spreadsheet and compare all your available options and use that to guide your decision.

But as a mom to a boy, I can tell you that Freedom or Explorer class is the way to go, since Oasis class isn't likely to be an option (plus even if it were an option, you'd probably be looking at an extra $40-$50/day per person, which would take a chunk out of your budget). 

There may even be cruises in your time-frame that hit both Coco Cay and Labadee, which offers you two different ports with "free" food and drinks and pool/beach time.  I know some people complain that there's "nothing to do" at Labadee, but that's precisely why I love it so much!  Just a nice, relaxing beach day, floating in the water, looking at the mountains, napping on a lounger, no schedule, no paying for taxis and tours, just tropical bliss.

Keep asking questions -- people here are amazing sources of information!

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Posted (edited)

Look at Grandeur of the Seas from Miami. 5 Night Cruise  March 5, 2023

 

Call and ask what a Grand Suite 2- Bedroom costs, it sleeps 8, there are a couple aft cabins available right now facing the wake. Really Nice !! Deck 8

 

You can get the Everglade National part in, plus the cruise goes to Key West and Labadee, Haiti

 

Fly into Miami, do the 5 day cruise.  After cruise is  over Then rent a car one way from Miami Airport to Orlando Airport.

 

Use the car to drive over to the Everglade National Park, then travel back to Disney. Do the parks and fly home from MCO

 

Save Coco Cay for another time. Since it sounds like  Everglades National Park and Disney is on the must do list, I think this is your best bet.

 

Getting to Key West by Car is murder, it's alot farther away then you think. Going by ship is best for your time constraints.

 

    • Day 1: Miami - Florida
    • Sun Mar 05 2023 | Depart 05:00 PM
    • Day 2: Key West - Florida
    • Mon Mar 06 2023 | 08:00 AM To 05:00 PM
    • Day 3: At Sea
    • Tue Mar 07 2023 |
    • Day 4: Labadee - Haiti
    • Wed Mar 08 2023 | 08:00 AM To 05:00 PM
    • Day 5: At Sea
    • Thu Mar 09 2023 |
    • Day 6: Miami - Florida
    • Fri Mar 10 2023 | Arrive 07:00 AM
Edited by Jimbo
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DH and I just got back from Florida.  We flew into Orlando, spent a few days, and drove down to the Keys.  Easy drive. No cruise this time, but recommend just leaving from Port Canaveral if you want to do Disney World.  While the Keys are lovely, there is not much for kids other than the beach.

 

In 2019, we did Disney World and a Disney Cruise.  Flew into Orlando, went to DW.  Drove down to Port Canaveral for the cruise.  I do recommend getting a rental car and parking at the cruise terminal.  It's a lot less expensive than getting airport transfers for 6 people and you get to the terminal when you want instead with a big group of people.

Also, if you have a late flight out of Orlando, you can reserve a day room at the Hyatt inside of the terminal.  They have a pool, restaurant, and bar.  This is a much better option that hanging out at the gate for several hours.

 

 

 

 

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I too was thinking Key West isn't the greatest place to take kids.  Kind of like taking kids to Las Vegas - you can do some things and it might be enough BUT as adults you may feel you are having to skip the essence of the place because you've got under aged people with you.

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On 7/15/2021 at 2:00 PM, Dreamcruiser2 said:

DH and I just got back from Florida.  We flew into Orlando, spent a few days, and drove down to the Keys.  Easy drive. No cruise this time, but recommend just leaving from Port Canaveral if you want to do Disney World.  While the Keys are lovely, there is not much for kids other than the beach.

 

In 2019, we did Disney World and a Disney Cruise.  Flew into Orlando, went to DW.  Drove down to Port Canaveral for the cruise.  I do recommend getting a rental car and parking at the cruise terminal.  It's a lot less expensive than getting airport transfers for 6 people and you get to the terminal when you want instead with a big group of people.

Also, if you have a late flight out of Orlando, you can reserve a day room at the Hyatt inside of the terminal.  They have a pool, restaurant, and bar.  This is a much better option that hanging out at the gate for several hours.

 

 

 

 

Great info here!

 

I want to add that the beach in Key West is nothing to write home about.  It is a cool area to visit, but not sure it’s worth the added travel time and cost due to the ages of your children.

 

If you can arrange it, I would plan the parks before the cruise.  That would give you a chance to “recover” on a deck chair. 

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