What could be more fun than a family vacation? I mean a real vacation of a lifetime with the entire family. Well, I just did it.
Time moves so fast, and before you know it, the kids are moving away to college, getting married and having children of their own. I thought it would be great to make one last big trip before we were so spread out.
With that in mind, 17 of us flew to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and took a Royal Caribbean Cruise on the Allure of the Seas. What an amazing ship — and a very good way to allow everyone to do what they wanted to do. The teenagers learned to surf on the Flowriders and do rock climbing. Even the adults tried the zip line, and absolutely everyone enjoyed the shows. Each could go their own way and plan to meet the others whenever.
Our first two days were at sea to learn the ship and enjoy all the available activities. We had fun finding out who had the brains to win at trivia and who had the brawn to climb the rock wall. Of course, there were those of us who enjoyed sitting by the pool and taking time in the spa.
Our first real stop was the RCCL-owned portion of Labadee, Haiti. This is a tropical playground with water sports, a water slide through lush tropical plants, a zip line over the ocean, miles of beautiful sand beaches, and warm water to play in. We spent the entire day, complete with a barbecue lunch and shops.
The next day it was a stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The teenagers took scuba lessons while the rest of us explored the city. We started at El Moro, the old fort built in the early-1500s, and wandered through the adjacent cemetery with the most beautiful graves you have ever seen. A walk along the old city wall took us into old town, where not all the shops were old but certainly tempting. It was very warm, and so we made a stop at the El Convento Hotel (remember watching â€œThe Flying Nunâ€ with Sally Fields? Filmed here) for a cocktail before continuing our walk back to the ship.
The last shore day was in St. Maarten/St. Martin (half French and half Dutch). These countries have been peacefully sharing the island for hundreds of years. Some of the adults did a zip line, which also included suspension bridges over jungle washes. The boys took to sailing yachts with tall sails. The oldest of us just opted for a drive around the island.
Every night we would join at dinner and hear stories from everyone how they spent their time. We learned that communication was of primary importance and that we needed to switch seats at the table every night so that we shared with everyone. We learned to have note pads and sticky notes for letting others know what we were doing and where they could find us. Walkie-talkies might have been a good idea, but several used an app on their phones to communicate. We had made reservations for every show for the entire group. This was just another thing that we could share and then head out to the disco, the casino, or bed.
It was an amazing adventure and something that will be with us all forever.
If you would be interested in organizing something for your family, I would love to help. Just give me a call at 253-927-8207 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
P.S Donâ€™t forget, there is still space for Cuba in February, Viking River Cruising in April, and a coastal cruise from San Diego to Vancouver.
Linda Finch, who wrote this article, is a travel planner.