All Aboard for a Family Cruise in the Caribbean

By Paulo Branco, General Manager, Ellison Travel & Tours

This year my family and I set sail to the Caribbean for some much needed fun in the sun.

Royal Caribbean’s 7 Night Western Caribbean Cruise on Liberty of the Seas was a family vacation for the books. Sailing from Galveston, with stops in Mexico, Honduras, and Belize – we returned home with our fill of white sandy beaches, some serious tan lines, and memories that will last a lifetime.

Cover Cozumel

Getting To The Port

Our flight took off to Houston (IAH) from Detroit (DTW), where the fun started for the kids in the air long before we were anywhere near the sea.

The Delta pilots noticed we were with little ones – Eila, 5 and Siena, almost 3. They invited the girls into the cockpit, where they became honorary Delta members. It was made official with wing pins and an announcement on the overhead speaker. Needless to say, the girls thought this was pretty amazing.

Getting On The Cruise Ship (Galveston, Texas)

Since this was our first ocean cruise since COVID, we weren’t sure what to expect in terms of the check-in process. However, we were pleasantly surprised that the whole experience went extremely smoothly, with little variation from the normal process. Port of call

We had uploaded all the necessary documents before coming, along with answering all the health questions. They did want to see everything again, so it would be best to bring paper copies for a seamless experience.

Our youngest isn’t vaccinated so she had to do a quick test before we could climb aboard. The results didn’t take long and they had a designated waiting area.

On the Cruise

While waiting for our room we headed upstairs to the restaurant where the kids were excited to find a giant cake welcoming them aboard the Liberty of the Seas. This was their first-ever cruise, and this initial experience far surpassed their already high expectations for this trip!

We grabbed a bite to eat at the buffet and a cold beer – after a morning of logistics and travel with two little ones, the vacation had officially started for us adults.

There weren’t major changes to the buffet-styled restaurant from pre-COVID days. We needed to use hand sanitizer to get into the restaurant but we were able to still serve ourselves. All of the staff was double-masked with both N95 and cloth masks.

Two tiny hiccups we ran into was that if you bring a reusable water bottle, they will insist on giving you a plastic water bottle. As well, they say that you can use your electronic card, but if you have a drinking package and want to get a beer or a specialty coffee (lattes, cappuccino, etc.) you need to have your physical card.

Our Stateroom

We opted for two connected staterooms, rather than the family sized stateroom. I’d say this is definitely the way to go with kids so that they have their own space (as well as the adults).

Coming back to a clean and organized room daily was nice after a long day in the sun. The kids looked forward to seeing the surprise towel “sculptures” that were left for them daily.

Excellent Service at Sea

We were extremely impressed with the great service that we received from the staff onboard.

My wife, Michelle, is allergic to scallops. They made a point to avoid any chances of her coming in contact by asking the day before what she will eat. This put our minds at ease, allowing us to relax without worrying about dealing with an allergic reaction in the middle of the sea.

It didn’t take long for the servers to pick up on our likes and dislikes. They made recommendations that were right on point, adding to our culinary experience.

We had one particular staff member who was extra kind and dedicated. He really made our trip special by planning the perfect dinner for us.

He was experienced in family vacations, and let us in on the secret that if we bring the kids to the buffet at 6 pm, we could drop them off at the daycare at 7. This gave Michelle and me the chance to have a date night at the Italian restaurant on board.

He had everything planned and reserved by the time we finished breakfast in the morning.

Date Night At Giovanni’s Table

After dropping the kids with full stomachs off at Daycare, we headed to Giovanni’s Table.

While the restaurant is “family style” we were happy to be just the two of us. They have a terrific menu of rustic Italian dishes, unable to have just one thing we tried a few things from the menu.

What would be a trip to the sea without seafood? We ordered the grigliata di polpo, or in other words, grilled octopus which was excellent. The beef carpaccio definitely didn’t disappoint. We were grateful for the generous portion of the braised veal ossobuco, which was melt-in-your-mouth tender. The pasta dishes and gnocchi were meals in and of themselves, so if you ordered just that you definitely wouldn’t leave hungry.

Of course with the logistical issues around the world due to the pandemic and the war, they ran out of some of their wines, however, the waiter was ready with recommendations of some really great alternatives.

We finished our meal with decadent tiramisu and an Irish coffee, we needed to maximize our date night after all.



The onboard daycare service is excellent. Our kids were begging to go back every day, which we were happy to oblige because it gave us some adult time in the mornings and evenings.

Since our youngest was just under 3 years old, we were given a phone to carry around in case she needed us. We paid $6/hr. for her daycare, and our oldest’s ‘Kids Club’ was included since she’s 5 years old.

They were accommodating to our youngest’s likes by for example providing the supplies for painting, drawing, and playdough. The big hit at daycare was the fake campfire where they could “roast” marshmallows. Since it was Siena’s birthday on the last day, they made it extra special for her with a small gift package, which was a really nice surprise. She loved it!

On-Ship Sports

Aside from the usual pools and waterparks onboard we loved the sports available. There was basketball, surfing, and various waterslides which we got Michelle to ride. It was an absolute blast to do these activities onboard.


One thing we love about Royal Caribbean Cruises is the land excursions that they offer. While the ship itself is incredible with its onboard entertainment, it’s great to get off the ship and explore the locations.

Note, that you should take your towel with you if you do beach or waterpark activities, but if you leave them behind you’ll be charged $25 per towel.

Booking Excursions

Royal Caribbean has an app that you can book excursions through which makes it practical and easy. There are some things that could be improved to make it, even more, user-friendly – e.g. whether the excursions are sold out or not, the duration of the excursion, and if it’s kid-friendly or not would be helpful for planning the day.

They have a lot of great experiences to choose from. Some that sounded really fun that we would have definitely done if we were alone or if the girls were a little bit older.

If you’re looking for kid-friendly excursions make sure to book right at the beginning of your trip because they sell out quickly. We waited a little too long and missed out on some good options, but we still managed to book really fun excursions!

Beach Break With Open Bar (Playa Costa, Mexico)

The excursion said ‘kid-friendly’, but we quickly learned the open bar attracted the guests that were looking for a different type of good time.

We were able to enjoy most of the day on the beach, swimming and playing in the sand.

Big French Key (Roatan, Honduras)

This was one of those days that will stay in my heart forever. It was paradise on earth being at the Big French Key with Michelle and the girls.

We enjoyed every minute of this post-card-worthy experience. The water was shallow, calm, clear and turquoise blue, surrounded by the reef, non-mechanical water toys, gorgeous white sand and shady palm trees. There was food and drink service with reasonable prices for a place catered to tourists.

Belize City (Belize)

While Belize City had some excursions that sounded incredible, the weather had different plans for us.

It was a very windy day, and the ship docked in the sea, so getting to land by tender would take 30 minutes on a smaller boat in rough waters with seasick children. We decided to stay on board and enjoy the onboard amenities – since many people left the ship it was nice having more space to ourselves.

Playa Mia Grand Beach Break (Cozumel, Mexico)

We were offered two different packages for this tour, an all-inclusive deluxe package and just the water park entrance.

Since Michelle and I weren’t going to be drinking much we opted for just the entrance. This allowed us to order a-la-carte for our little picky eaters.

The girls loved the waterpark, which also had “normal” pools and hot tubs. The highlight was the water splash, it was one of the cutest and most intense kid water parks I’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for a quieter pace, It also had an area for floating in the ocean which was super relaxing. All in all, this was a great excursion for the whole family.



This part of the journey could have used a little improvement. It was lacking in instructions on where to go after leaving the ship. This resulted in a lot of confused people standing in direct sunlight with luggage and walkers waiting for instructions.

The coordination with the coach company also seemed to be all over the place – they mixed the groups with people going to different airports in the same coach line, rather than separating them. In the scheme of things, this should be an easy fix for Royal Caribbean by just adding signage or a designated information person at this leg of the trip.


Overall it was a great family vacation. Eila and Siena had a blast, and Michelle and I were able to have alone time and quality time with the girls. Royal Caribbean really knows what they are doing when it comes to making a trip special for the entire family.