For the first time in almost 4 years, my husband and I took a vacation ALONE. If you have small children, you know just how difficult this is…but we did it. Did I miss those babies with every ounce of my being? HECK YES! But we needed that time together and I’m so thankful we were able to take it.
The last time I went on a cruise, I was around 8 years old and other than getting my hair braided in the Bahamas, I don’t remember much about it. The idea of going on this cruise was in the works for close to a year so it honestly felt like a lifetime before we actually set sail. We’d arranged for my mom and sister to come up and watch the girls the week we were gone. They live about 7 hours away so it was nice that they got a week to spend together. They arrived Thursday evening and Friday afternoon we took off to the airport.
If you’ve never been on a cruise before, I highly recommend it. From the second our vacation started, I felt like royalty. Pretty much everything is included on a cruise. Want dessert at 2am? Order it, sister! And the staff works so hard to learn and remember our names. Every time we turned around, there was someone there talking to us by name and asking if we needed anything. It was insane. I had no idea what to expect going into it and it exceeded every expectation I might have had. In fact, we’ve already put a downpayment on our next one.
We sailed with Holland America Line on the Oosterdam. Y’all, that ship was huge! I felt for sure I would be lost at every turn but I learned the layout so quickly. The first day, obviously, we were at sea headed to our first destination. The good thing about a cruise is theres always something to do, even on days at sea. There were 2 pools, at least 4 hot tubs, a spa, more food than you can imagine, shows, movies, shops, a game room and even a casino on board. The possibilities are literally endless.
Half Moon Point
Our first destination was to Holland America’s private island in the Bahamas, Half Moon Point. We’d reserved a private beach cabana for the day and, as did everything else, it exceeded our expectations. There was food and drinks waiting for us as soon as we got there along with snorkeling gear and water floats. It was so nice. We spent the entire day laying out on the beach and soaking in the sun. The water was crystal clear and the sand was white at snow. It was so beautiful. Since it was a Holland America owned island, an island barbecue was included. So good, y’all.
What would I be if I weren’t honest? Y’all, Montego Bay was a nightmare. Okay okay…let me elaborate. Getting there was a nightmare. Because we couldn’t port, we had to tender there on the lifeboats. They dropped us off in this shipyard by the hundreds while the buses that were set to pick us up could only hold 40-50. Long story short…about an hour and a half of our time and $40 later we were finally in downtown Montego Bay, Jamaica. We walked around for about an hour, did some shopping, ate some really good jerk chicken and then all but ran back to the boat.
Grand Cayman Island
UGH…because of the huge ocean swells, we weren’t able to safely go to Grand Cayman. Such a bummer because I was looking forward to it the most. Instead, we started making our way towards Mexico and got to Cozumel early!
About a month before the cruise, we sat down to book our excursions. David asked what I wanted to do and my ONLY answer was “kiss a dolphin.” Other than that, I couldn’t care less what we did. I was going to be on vacation for a week with no kids to get snacks for, no house to clean and no errands to run…I could just sit at the pool all week and be happy but I wanted to touch a dolphin. Cozumel, Mexico was the place and today was the day. Because we got there so much earlier than planned, they moved our excursion time up and at 9am we were getting off the boat and headed to our dolphin swim. We walked in and it was the most beautiful dolphin oasis. There were various areas to let the different dolphins rest between groups. It was so nice and you could really tell they were being taken care of. They actually told us that the average dolphin lifespan in the wild is only about 25 years because of predators and ocean pollution. At their facility their average life span is more like 65 because, obviously, theres no predators or pollution and they have access to medical care if needed. We had 45 glorious minutes in the water with the dolphins. We got to pet them, kiss them, love on them and we each got a dolphin ride. It was literally the coolest experience and I would do it again in a second.
We could stay there all day with unlimited food and drinks INCLUDED, y’all. It was the best deal. I can’t even tell you how many tacos and margaritas I consumed that day…can you say heaven?? Once we were completely stuffed full of food and bright red from sunburn, we took off to a little outdoor mall to do some shopping then headed back to the boat.
Tips & Tricks
Food & Drinks
You will eat more that you’ve ever eaten in your life while on board. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is included and it is GOOD FOOD!!!! I am a cereal for breakfast kind of girl and I’m proud to report I didn’t have cereal one single day while on board. Every morning they had a specialty waffle and oh my goodness they were amazing. The first day’s flavor was some kind of gingerbread waffle with a whipped orange honey butter and real maple syrup and I could seriously eat that every day for the rest of my life…so good. There was food for all 3 meals, buffet style, on the Lido deck each day. Omelet stations, waffles, pancakes, crepes, a salad bar, create your own pasta bar, dessert station and so much more. I can’t even begin to describe how good the food selection was. Every night, we made our way to the dining room where we had a more formal dining experience. There’s a new specialty menu every night with dishes inspired by where you’ve been that day. Fun fact, you can order as many dishes off that menu as you’d like. Appetizer, entrée and dessert. Want to try the butternut squash soup AND the shrimp cocktail? DO IT! Want the filet but you don’t get good crab cakes too often? GET THEM BOTH! Y’all…I…ATE…SO…MUCH! But it was all so good and so worth it.
We considered getting a drink package while on board, but financially it just didn’t seem worth it to us. We did just fine with the included water, tea, coffee and lemonade and just ordered wine or mixed drinks as we wanted. The prices were actually so reasonable and we spent so much less than if we had done the drink package. Excursions are also where you’ll get the most bang for your buck with drinks. Like I said above, all drinks (sodas and mixed drinks) were included with our dolphin excursion ALL DAY so find and book ones that have things like that.
While on board, we were gifted a spa package for 2. The entire trip, we could go to the spa and enjoy the steam room, a huge hot tub filled with mineral water and these warm tile beds created by a chiropractor. It was so relaxing and just what I needed on those few days that not even paradise could keep my migraines away. I concluded from our spa experience, that I need a steam room in my house…so babe, get to work. Seriously though, it is something we will probably get on our next cruise too. It was so relaxing and just what we needed to take our cruising experience to the next level.
Each day you’re given a schedule of events on the boat. This includes trivia, bingo, bar crawls, shows, movie nights, cooking classes, gala nights, dance parties, jewelry shows, wine tastings and so much more. Three words…take full advantage. I love Bingo and David knows it so he took me to play one afternoon. Guess what? We won $120. We also went to play music trivia one night and won that too. There’s ALWAYS something to do.
Your Next Cruise
Typically, if you put a downpayment on your next cruise while on the boat, it’s much cheaper. In this case by doing our downpayment while on board, we also got free onboard credit for our next cruise. We have 4 years to book and set sail and if for some reason we don’t, they’ll give us a full refund. We’re already looking into their other destinations and planning out our next trip.
Have you ever been on a cruise? What was your favorite cruise line and destination?