How would Royal Caribbean’s Arabian Gulf itinerary score for a young family of four? Kerry Baggott is the judge of that.
Three and five year olds are not the usual guest profile on a cruise, let alone one around the Middle East. But the lure of Dubai’s waterparks and the thrill of facing the world’s fastest roller coaster in Abu Dhabi brought out the kid in me and my husband – so we thought we’d drag the children along.
Royal Caribbean International’s Brilliance of the Seas was to be our home for a seven-night itinerary along the Arabian Gulf.
It was a gamble. Would the kids, particularly at this age, hamper our fun? Would the facilities and entertainment, on and off board, suit the whole troop? Or would we all go stir crazy with cabin fever? Here are the scores on the stateroom doors:
I had that sinking feeling as we entered stateroom 9076 – where the hell are the children going to sleep. A double bed for us grown-ups (or two singles pushed together) and a very narrow sofa. Had they made a mistake? Orlando, our room steward, came instantly to reassure us. The sofa was in fact a large single (perfectly capable of accommodating an adult let alone a two-foot two-stone body) and above it, at the press of a button, from the ceiling appeared a foldaway bed. Voilá – bunk beds. Panic over and the relief made even sweeter by the sliding curtain that separately the two sleeping areas. The large balcony, with a reassuringly high barrier, was furnished with a sun bed, chairs and an ideal table for playing cards.
Of course more space would have been nice, but the tardis-like room was fitted with numerous hidey-holes – ideal for storing toys.
Food, food and more food: 5/5
I could have docked a point here purely on the basis of there being too much food.
Only when you’re dining with children do you really appreciate fast food. The service was super speedy a la carte style. On this occasion this suited us perfectly since you never can tell when or why a meltdown will occur. However, bribery and corruption kept the Baggott girls in line and dining on a good variety of chicken, fish and meat throughout the week was rewarded with healthy helpings of doughnuts, ices-creams and jellies. We were given the six o’clock sitting in Minstrel, the fine-dining restaurant, which, while a tad early for us parents, suited the girls perfectly. Our waitress, Neslehan, took the order for the girls as soon as we’d had a chance to survey the menus - they were free to choose from either the a la carte, the kids’ menus or they were happy for us to go ‘off course’. Neslehan even squatted down and actually fed Emily for us on a couple of occasions, leaving us free to just feed ourselves!
Had we not had Emily and Charlotte with us, this category would have scored a full house. But I only have myself to blame. Having always been a stickler with the girls for an early bedtime routine, by eight o’clock each evening (way passed their bedtime) they were shattered. One evening we made it to a seven o’clock showtime in the Pacifica Theatre – only for the girls to fall asleep in our arms. As the week went on this became the norm, and we spent most evenings on our balcony.
To find out what we were missing, one night we booked a babysitter to watch over the sleeping girls.
We certainly made up for lost time – dining in Chops, one of the speciality restaurants, holding up the bar swaying to the sounds of the pianist and then hitting the dance floor. It was a late, great and, at $20 an hour for the babysitter, an expensive night.
If the girls were in charge of the scoring, entertainment would be top of their leaderboard - thanks primarily to the Adventure Ocean kids club. With only a handful of children on board, Emily and Charlotte got the full attention of the staff. Water play, making fairy wings, crowns and wands, kept the girls begging us to take them to ‘the club’.
There was also a dedicated children’s pool with a slide. We spent most of our time around here – even though the waterline was such that there was no danger of getting our knees wet.
Ports of call: 3/5
Had the girls been older, then the thrills and spills of Dubai and Abu Dhabi would have been more enjoyable. To experience the Jumeirah Scarer at Wild Wadi waterpark and the Formula Rossa at Ferrari World, us adults had to divide and conquer, leaving one to babysit. But we all loved touring the Lost Chambers aquarium at Atlantis, and sledging in Ski Dubai.
Whilst we wondered why on earth the industrial port of Fujariah was even on the itinerary, we were left with no doubt why Muscat in Oman was featured. We all loved exploring the Mutrah Souk (check out the girls’ new belly-dancing outfits) and the dolphin-watching tour was the highlight.
We had a fabulous family holiday. However, you can’t help thinking that by retiring at 8pm most evenings, you’re missing out on a big chunk of the cruising experience. If you’re European-esque or your children are old enough to burn the midnight oil, this gets around this problem. For the Baggotts, we’ll definitely keep cruising on our list of potential family holidays – but we’ll not be boarding again for at least a few years.
About this blog...
I set up this blog to reveal what real life is like here in the UAE - the good and the bad. I'll chat about what I've been up to, Dubai news and developments, my thoughts about expat life here (and in general) and reports about my holidays and adventures in the region (travel is my bag after all).