New Year's on the high seas 

Don't be afraid to travel over the busy Christmas-New Year's stretch. It will likely be more affordable and fun than you think.

click to flip through (5) ROMAN STETSYK / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas at port.
  • roman stetsyk /
  • Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas at port.

We'd been told: Absolutely, do not cruise over New Year's Eve.

The airfares to the departure city and the cost of the cruise would be astronomical, the ship would be packed to the gills, service would suffer and ports of call would be overrun with tourists taking advantage of the holiday.

Yet, here we are, my extended family of 10, ringing in the New Year on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas somewhere between Haiti and Jamaica.

And, we're having the time of our lives.

The Liberty of the Seas is one of those mega-ships big enough to have a Royal Promenade resembling a main street running 130 metres down the centre of the vessel that stretches to natural light via a four-storey atrium.

Along the promenade there are a champagne bar, pizzeria, cupcake cafe, Ben & Jerry's and English-style pub with "outdoor" seating, shops and a show lounge.

We camp out at the champagne bar prior to midnight to mark the new year.

This is the interior of a cruise ship, so no fireworks, but there was lots of partying, confetti, champagne for the adults and pop for the kids.

Three generations of MacNaulls picked this five-night cruise, Dec. 30 to Jan. 4, 2015 precisely because it was the holidays and we could all get time off school and work to get together to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.

True, airfares were holiday-inflated, but still reasonable because of the competition of lots of flights coming into the popular cruise departure port of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Cruises over prime times such as American Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and school breaks also tend to cost more based on the simple metrics of supply and demand.

However, my parents knew months ahead of time they wanted to whole family to gather for a travelling golden anniversary party, so we booked far enough in advance to get a good price.

Yes, each and every one of the 1,817 staterooms on board was full, for a pumped up passenger count of 4,300.

Yet, many cruises sail at full capacity so service wasn't compromised.

After all, there are also 1,360 crew aboard to cater to your every need and want.

My wife and I and our two kids had cruised before, but my brother and his son and daughter, my sister and my parents were cruise newbies.

We all quickly discovered a holiday on the high seas is the perfect multi-generational way to travel.

Cruises are also naturally celebratory, so ideal for marking a milestone anniversary.

And it's an incredible way for a family to spend time together without anyone having to worry about braving snowy roads; planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning up for big meals; or figuring out what to do.

Round trip from Fort Lauderdale, our cruise stopped at Royal Caribbean's private beach at Labadee, Haiti and Falmouth, Jamaica.

As a family group of 10, it was easy to pick out multi-generational excursions in each destination.

At Labadee we rented a huge beach cabana to use as our lounging-eating-and-drinking base between splashing in the Caribbean Sea.

The cabana decision also allowed members of the family to split off when they wanted to zipline, jetski or visit the nearby Haitian village.

In Jamaica we headed out en mass on a bucket-list combination of swimming with dolphins and climbing Dunn's River Falls.

Dolphins are always a hit and everyone in the family, regardless of age, couldn't stop smiling as we interacted with the creatures as they pushed and pulled us through the water.

Dunn's River Falls is an easy climb through gentle waterfalls and pools for a wonderful half-day of water fun.

Both my 70-something parents, the other adults and the kids declared it the best day ever.

On the ship, dinners bring the family together at big tables in the Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Botticelli main dining rooms and we enjoyed the Portofino specialty restaurant for the actual 50th anniversary dinner with cake finish.

Onboard, the family also had options to spend time together, or we could go off and do our own thing.

On such a big ship that meant extra pool lounging for the adults while the kids went off to surf on the wave machine at the back of the boat, scale the rock climbing wall or decorate cupcakes.

And then we all came together for the figure skating and Saturday Night Fever musical shows before capping it all off with a shuffleboard tournament on the promenade deck.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Latest in Travel

More by Steve MacNaull

© 1994-2019 Pique Publishing Inc., Glacier Community Media

- Website powered by Foundation