Cayman Cruisers

If you'll remember a few years back (nearly six, actually), we originally discovered this island paradise via a cruise ship. Back then, we often strategically planned a Caribbean cruise vacation right after our audit busy season as a way to catch up on rest, laughter, and vitamin D after the long haul. The Caribbean seemed like the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate, mixing in a bit of island exploring (like our first visit to Stingray City) during the cruise itinerary.

Actually, the Caribbean is the perfect place to do all of that more than one week a year, which is why we ended up deserting our New Jersey lifestyle and moving to Grand Cayman three and a half years ago. And since that time, for obvious reasons, we have not been on a Caribbean cruise.

Our vacations over the past few years have largely been more adventurous than relaxing, opting for backpacking through Europe or exploring Israel from top to bottom. Although far more challenging than cruising, we've enjoyed each of these trips, yielding memories (and photos) that will last a lifetime.

But there is something so very relaxing about cruising. With no cell service and rarely any internet, being disconnected is almost mandatory. With round-the-clock food service and entertainment options, logistical details all work themselves out. And with friends who like spending their days riding wooden carousels and zip-lining, cruising is a great way to rediscover the kid us all.

Wait. Did I just say carousels and zip-lining?

Yep. We did all that. On a cruise ship.




Confession: We currently live in Cayman, and we just went on another Caribbean cruise. And loved it.

Sometimes, you just gotta give in and be a tourist.
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We sailed on Royal Caribbean International's Allure of the Seas - literally, the biggest cruise ship in the world. It's so big, in fact, that it has seven "neighborhoods". Upon boarding the ship, we started by visiting what became my favorite neighborhood: Central Park. This unique green space featured real trees and plants, a great little cafe, an art museum, a Coach store, a couple speciality restaurants, and an elevator bar that traveled from the Promenade on Deck 5 (another neighborhood) to Central Park and back. What impressed me most about Central Park was open air feature - a roofless park all the way from Deck 8 through Deck 18 and beyond.

You can see why the whole group enjoyed eating and hanging out here, sometimes several times a day.

Another unique neighborhood on the ship was the Boardwalk, where we could find the carousel, a candy shop, a large aqua theater, and lots more food. Two prime examples:


SS: The only person I know who can pull off donut leggings.

...and gourmet hot dogs.

Day 01. Hour 01.
Sandwich 03.

Here's an aerial shot to give you an idea:

One observation worth mentioning: I noticed that on this cruise, more than ever before, that there were so many ways Royal Caribbean tried to up-sell me at every turn. Not only did they have a ton of speciality restaurants (each with a cover charge) and retail stores tucked into all parts of the ship, but during the first couple days onboard, it seemed like they were trying to persuade us to make reservations in the restaurants, to use the expanded spa services (including a free tour of the facilities that resulted in SS winning a big gift certificate!), and to play bingo in order to win a free cruise.

"Free" was the key operative word. I stuck with what was truly free. Like the free ice cream machines on the pool deck.

Every day.
"Free" is also why we let loose at dinner every night and sampled 90% of the free menu. Between the six of us, I lost count of the plates.

    photo credit: NS
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Lest you think that all our group did was consume calories, there were also plenty of opportunities to burn them. The gym facilities were enormous (considering the fact that we were on a moving vessel), and NS even introduced me to the concept of a Crossfit WOD so we could justify at least a fraction of our daily dessert intake.

Outside of the gym: In keeping with his tradition, NS recruited a team for a couple dodgeball tournaments on the days at sea.

As per tradition, his team won medals every single time.

The victorious team! And one other guy looking for his mommy.

And as a particularly special bonus, N's team won the Guests v. Crew dodgeball tournament on the last sea day. Here's one of my favorite photos: Our awesome cruise director, Allan--the SAME cruise director we had on the Liberty of the Seas that took us to Cayman for the first time (!!)--trying to nail N during one of the games. N is so ready for it! 

Allan: A defeated man in 2008, and again in 2014. Threepeat, anyone?
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Despite the daily ice cream intake and dodgeball wars, everyone cleaned up well in the evenings.

That's another great thing about these big cruise ships: They're so large and provide so much variety, that you're not tripping all over each other every hour of the day. I often found myself hidden in a secluded area of the pool deck with my nose in a book, completely oblivious to anyone around me for hours. But dinner as a group was compulsory. Every night: The same table, the same lovely waiter, the same smiling faces.

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And after dinner, we booked (free) tickets for the many shows onboard. I'm telling you: Cruising is a one-stop-shop for all vacation relaxation needs!

Enough about the ship for a second. We also had three ports of call: Bahamas, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.

I personally skipped the first port. I had zero interest in Nassau and had way more interest in a relatively empty ship. I got my pick of the pool chairs that day!

My view of Atlantis from Deck 16 while I consumed several chapters of my book.
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Our next stop was St. Thomas. Having already been there twice, I had limited interest here also, except that a coworker mentioned it was worth it to take the ferry across to the smaller island of St. John.  N and I ditched the others for the afternoon and took the short ferry ride, discovering one of the prettiest islands I've ever seen.

The island vibe was laid-back, secluded, and oh. so. pretty.

St. John's unique history includes large land purchases back in the day by Laurence Rockefeller, who then donated approx. 5,000 acres to the U.S. Government in the 1950s. These lands, along with other land donations, are part of a national park that covers about two-thirds of the island. As a result, a drive through the island yielded all kinds of undeveloped hardwood forest-like scenery - very different from my other island experiences thus far.

I can genuinely say, as someone who lives on an island, that St. John is the place in the Caribbean I'd want to vacation.

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Another unique island experience: A visit to Maho Beach, St. Maarten, to get blown away.

I hope you don't get panicky seeing low-flying aircraft. If you do, I recommend staying far away from Maho Beach. (And scroll really quickly

This just isn't right.

The view from a nearby beach bar.

The beach itself, by the way, is a tiny little strip of sand, littered with loud tourists and their empty beer bottles. But apparently I was the only one looking down. NS and SM were mesmerized with the sights above.

Not only do the planes land almost on your head, but they also take off from the same runway, right on the other side of the road. Everyone lines up on the edge of the beach, waiting for a big aircraft to take off, with the jet engines blasting off in their faces.

Before takeoff, the beach looks like this.

And then everyone gets, well, blown away.

Fortunately, we have only minor damages to report from this experience.

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By day, we sipped umbrella drinks.

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Entered countless rounds of trivia.

Sometimes I make them pose. But it looks so real.
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Played card games designed for kids. Why wouldn't you?! 

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And then dressed up to eat five desserts. Each.

Our trio of studs.

He's mine, and I still can't believe it.

After two vacations with these people, I consider them all family.

And honestly. If cruising doesn't bring out the kid in you, cause you to ride a carousel, and make you want to eat five desserts every day, you're doing it wrong.

So thankful for a great time with the #caymancruisers2014.

And so thankful to be home. In Cayman.

I am proof that cruising can change your life.

For more evidence of our life-changing cruise experience, check out the full set of pics here.


  1. So awesome!! Great pictures, of course. We totally won the Harry potter trivia on our family cruise, nbd. ;) xoxo!!

  2. Love it Jenn and love the last picture of you and Nate!

  3. I've had some not so good cruise experiences, but this ship looks AMAZING! ::runs off to Royal Caribbean website.::

    1. I highly recommend Royal Caribbean. The Freedom class ships and the Oasis class ships are phenomenal.