The cruise ship industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade. Worldwide growth has close to doubled from 12 million to almost 23 million people and within Australia, it has grown from 221,000 to over one million a year, being over four times growth and double that of the rest of the world’s average, according to the International Cruise Council Australasia.
So we jumped onto a 3-day sample cruise with Royal Carribean on Explorer of the Seas to check it all out. This ship is massive, at a length of 2.5 football fields and the height of an 18 story building, it dwarfs most of the other cruise ships. The ship accommodated 3,500 guests and 1500 staff to look after your every need.
Explorer of the Seas has three pools (one for adults only), six whirlpools (or spas as we call them), a 9 course mini golf course, a rock climbing wall, a multi-use sports court (soccer, basketball etc), table tennis, an ice skating rink, an outdoor poolside movie screen, plus a massive indoor 3D cinema regularly showing up blockbuster movies.
It also boasts a large video arcade, housing air hockey tables, standing arcade games, shooting games ball games and all the usual games parlour fun you’d expect to find. There’s also a library, indoor and outdoor youth club, a jogging track, a large fitness centre and my personal favourite, a FlowRider Surf Simulator!
Each night, your stateroom attendant leaves you a list of all the activities available to you and your family for the following day and often a little more, such as some very clever ‘towel art’. You can choose to either fill every minute of the day with activities or lie by the pool and do nothing!
Each day features a plethora of shows and other activities to ensure you get the most out of your trip. There will usually be at least one ‘Under the Stars Deck Party’ each cruise, plus a regular daily Ice Spectacular,where the performers manage to pull off some pretty amazing stunts on a small ice rink. There are also regular stage shows each day to entertain the young and old.
The entertainment and activities for the kids are endless … there are all the sports activities, movie cinemas and video arcades and also the kids club, called Adventure Ocean. This club runs from 9am through to an amazing 2am, offering day and night activities for kids from 3-11 years old. There’s also a program specifically for teenagers (12-17 years), as well has babysitters for tiny ones, so all ages are covered for fun!
Although the ship is the size of a city skyscraper, there is little chance of getting lost, thanks to the Digital Wayfinders that are located all over the ship. These wonderful interactive screens give you a list of everything that is going and also a step-by-step map that plots directions on the most direct route to where you wish to go.
Walking through parts of this ship often feeling like you are back on land. There are actually a lot of areas on the ship that are quite grand. From the main dining room with its open three story space, the Royal Promenade is an open four story arcade with bars, boutiques, shops and cafes, the cinema and the Vegas-style Casino Royale, with 287 slots and 16 tables.
When it comes to the food, there is so much on offer! From the extensive offering in the Windjammer Buffet to the grand dining room … or choose from one of the restaurants such as Chops Grille, which serves up stunning prime steaks. There’s the Italian-style trattoria called Giovanni’s Table, a Japanese fusion restaurant called Izumi Japanese or Johnny Rockets, which offers a 1950s-style diner with american burgers, hot dogs and cheesy fries. Ultimately you can enjoy relaxed casual dining or dress up for some fine dining.
Royal Carribean offers short 3 day sample cruises and 14+ day tours (and as you can guess), the shorter ones (and especially outside of school holidays) are more party orientated, where most of longer cruises are much more family-focused, with up to 40% children.
Whichever way you choose, there is plenty to keep your holiday full of fun or relaxation. Happy sailing!
– Tim Elwin and his family found cruising to be a fabulous family holiday