I have never been on a typical “spring break” during my college career. Granted, I am only a sophomore so this was really only my second Spring Break. Last year, I decided to stay at home with my family in the cold New England weather. It was definitely a nice break from my academic schedule, but I did feel like the cold weather was never-ending. This year, I was lucky enough to go on a cruise to the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico… with my mom. I know you’re probably thinking it’s strange that a college student would want to go on Spring Break with her mom, but I honestly loved it! My mom is so much fun and I love doing things with her. So, I counted down the days until we would set sail on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.
By the time March 2 rolled around, I was ready to get on that plane and head to Tampa, FL for a five-day sun-filled vacation. Unfortunately, the weather in the East was not ready to let me go. By the time I got home from school, most of my friends’ flights had been cancelled due to the nor’easter, so my mom and I were crossing our fingers that our flight would leave as scheduled. I guess we didn’t cross them tight enough, though, because our 6:55 flight was canceled at 2:30. Now, we were a little worried because the cruise set sail from Tampa the next day and if we couldn’t fly there, we would miss it. Luckily, my dad is a fast thinker and a very smart man, and he suggested that since we were only about 30 minutes from the airport we should just drive there to find another flight. This turned out to be the perfect idea because, although my mom had called the airport/airline and was told there was nothing they could do other than refund out ticket, we eventually found another flight to Tampa early the next morning. (Shout out to Miranda at the Southwest terminal at Bradley Airport because you were fantastic and helped us make our cruise!)
*Flying Tip: If your flight is cancelled and you are close to an airport, I suggest you go to that airport and speak with the people at the airline. Face-to-face contact is more likely to get you booked on another flight than simply calling on the phone because they get tons of calls from frantic flyers. Plus, if you are friendly while at the same time asking if there’s “anything at all they can do,” they will be more willing to try to accommodate you.*
Day 1- Travel and Ship Day
So, early Saturday morning my mom and I set off for Tampa and boarded our cruise. It was so amazing to be on board the ship because there was so much to explore and it was so sunny and warm. We started by looking around and centered on the beautiful atrium in the center of the ship. We sat on a beautiful couch at a little bar and just admired all the details of the boat. Then we decided we should take advantage of the sun, so we changed into the swimsuits we packed in our carry-ons (since you don’t get your luggage until after the ship is about to leave), and lay on the deck chairs. After an hour or so, we realized how hungry we were, so we headed to the buffet and gawked at all the options we could choose from. There was so much food that I think we may have over-indulged that first meal. But it was all too good to pass up.
Around 3:00 we decided to rest for a little bit to recover from our travels and to digest all the food we had just consumed. My mom had decided to get us a room with a balcony, which we’d never done before, and when we entered out cabin we immediately knew it would be worth the extra money. Even thought the balcony was small, it made the room seem so much bigger and added a less claustrophobic feel to the room. Plus, it was nice to sit out there and feel the breeze brush through my hair as I watched the water. Since, we were tired, though, we decided to wait to try out the balcony and instead took a nice little nap. We were awoken by the loudspeaker declaring that everyone needed to head to their prescribed deck for the safety practice. This took no more than 20 minutes, and then we walked around exploring the ship some more.
By the time we were ready for our dinner reservation, our hunger had returned. We opted for the sit-down dinner every night because it was nice to get a bit more dressed up and to be in a restaurant environment for our last meal of the day. My mom requested a window table, and the host graciously accommodated us. So as we ate our food, we were able to watch the sun set over the crashing waves. Overall, it was a perfect atmosphere. After we ate, my mom and I went to a show at the ship’s theater. The performer was a stand up comic, and he was pretty funny. By the time the show was over at around 10:30pm, both my mom and I were ready to turn in. This first day was a long and active one. The beds in the cabin are pretty comfortable and I could not really feel the rocking of the ship as I lay down. I would say Day 1 was a success!
Day 2- Ship Day
Sunday was a day at sea and a very relaxing one at that. The day started with my mom bringing me a cup of tea and a banana to eat on the balcony. Not a bad way to wake up! Then we went for a hearty breakfast at the buffet. We brought our food to a table near one of the huge windows and ate while we watched the sea go by. I have to say, this is my new favorite way to enjoy food. Then we walked around and came across a clothing sale the ship was having and picked out some cute T-shirts and an adorable beach cover-up. Then we decided to take advantage of the sunny day and went to the front of the ship to catch some rays. I was a bit burned from the day before, so I found a chair in the shade.
After a while, we went back to the buffet for lunch, then tried out the adult-only pool area. This area was covered with huge windows above so that it was warmer but also incredibly bright with sunlight. The pool itself was pretty warm surprisingly and not very crowded- the perfect swimming atmosphere. By the time I dried off a couple hours later, my mom and I decided that it was tea time. Luckily, right there in the adult area was a little cafe where we ordered some pastries and then made ourselves a cup of tea each. We took our afternoon treat over to the little tables and sat facing the sea as we sipped and snacked. Then we retired to the room for a post-tea rest. I ended up on the balcony just watching water and listening to music. It really was a perfect afternoon.
Before we knew it, it was time for dinner: 7:00. That night was fancy night, so we dressed up more than we normally would- dresses, jewelry, and bright lipstick. The food was delicious as usual, and we took our time to fully enjoy the meal. Around 9:00, we went to see another show at the theater; this time it was a cabaret-style musical. The performers were very good and they all had beautiful voices. After the show, we decided to go to bed early because the next day we had to wake up early. We only had from 8:00 am to 3:00pm at Grand Cayman and we wanted to make the most of it.
Day 3- Grand Cayman Island
The day started early as I sat on the balcony enjoying the tea my mother had brought me and watched as the sun rose over the horizon. Then we got a quick buffet breakfast and got ready to disembark into the Cayman Islands. We took a smaller boat to the shore and then found a taxi to take us to the Calico Jack’s at the Seven Mile Beach (which, fun fact, is NOT 7 miles). We then rented 2 beach chairs with umbrellas for $20 and set up our little slice of heaven. I have to say, I have never seen water so clear and so blue before. It was astonishing! So as I dipped my toes into the crystal clear water, my mom set up the mini speaker we had brought and played some chill beach tunes. After a little while, I ventured into the gorgeous water for a refreshingly cool swim. My mom had gotten us both snorkel gear (from Amazon) before our trip, so I got to try out snorkeling for the first time and I was not disappointed. I saw tiny little fish and lovely sea life. After a while, I went back to the chairs and it was my mom’s turn to venture into the water. By the time noon rolled around, we were ready for food. My mom went to Calico Jack’s and came back with yummy snacks and some margaritas. It was a fantastic lunch not only because of the food and drinks but because of the absolutely amazing atmosphere which we ate in.
When we finished eating, we stayed at the beach for another half an hour and then decided to head back to the main area. We took a taxi from the beach to the town area and walked around all the shops for a bit. On the cruise, we had gone to a jewelry show the day before and Amanda, the shopping cruise director, had given everyone a huge coupon book and flyers for a bunch of free/ discounted jewelry at each location. So, mom and I went to Effie to collect our free necklace, upgraded to a necklace and earrings set for $10, and then went to Diamonds International to claim our free charm bracelet and charms. One of the cool things about cruises is the free stuff you can claim, and I definitely came back laden with more jewelry than I boarded with. We went into other cute touristy stores as well and got a couple of tee shirts and hats. While we were wandering, we came across a rogue rooster just casually walking alongside us. What a strange and comical sight.
At 2:00, we headed back to the ship so we wouldn’t get left behind when the boat left at 3:00. Back on board, we rested until dinner time. I read more of my book from the beach that day (The Help by Kathryn Stockett if anyone is wondering). We had dinner as usual and then frequented another show. There’s a pattern in our nighttime activities, if you’ve noticed haha. After the show, around 10:15, there was a really entertaining music and dance in the atrium area. It was 70s night so they played a bunch of ABBA songs and 70s music while simultaneously doing old-school dances. Everyone was crowded around the dance floor and up above in the seating areas on every floor overlooking the atrium. Mom and I were on the 8th floor looking down and singing and dancing along. It was such a lively atmosphere that we were pretty sad when it ended. But we were also tired, so we went back to the cabin for a good night’s rest.
Day 4- Cozumel, Mexico
As usual, the day began with a big buffet breakfast, but since we docked a bit later I got to sleep in for a little longer and was able to see as we pulled into the dock. Mom and I had decided the night before that we were going to begin our adventure in Cozumel with the shopping tour headed by Amanda. This allowed us to go with a group in a free taxi to the center of the city where we were dropped off at Diamond’s International. Here, we received another free charm for our bracelets. Then we again went to Effie and got another free necklace, this time in a different color, and my mom bought herself a nice birthday present from there. What was nice about going with Amanda, though, was that we could purchase nice jewelry, leave it at the store with our name and cabin number, and then Amanda would come and pick up everyone’s jewelry to deliver it safely back aboard ship. This was great because mom and I did not want to bring the nice new jewelry to the beach with us just in case something were to happen to it. Because of this perk, we didn’t have to worry about anything. After the jewelry stores, we went to the typical tourist stores and bought a couple more T-shirts and souveniers. At Viva Mexico! they had a free tequila tasting which was something fun mom and I tried.
When shopping had tired us out, we decided to take a taxi to Chankanaab, the beach. Once there, we had to pay to get in, and then we went to lunch at one of the restaurants. What’s cool about Chankanaab is that there are so many things to do; you can go swimming with turtles, snorkeling, and so much more. We were pretty boring people so we just went to the beach and snorkeled on our own. Even just doing this was a lot of fun though! I found a hammock to lie in and read while mom went snorkeling and vice versa. At this beach, there were a lot more fish and a much deeper area of water to explore. There were constantly waiters coming around asking if we wanted anything to drink, so at one point we each ordered a local beer. We left after a couple of hours and headed back to the port.
However, there was so much to do at the port that we ended up staying there for another hour. We got a couple knick knacks at a touristy shop and then, oh and THEN, we came across the most fun place I’ve experienced: Senor Frog’s Cozumel! (From what I hear, they have these in many locations.) Let me tell you, this was an atmosphere fit for college students on Spring Break, which is probably why there were so many college kids there. They had great music playing, wild waiters, and lots of drinks to choose from. Mom and I ended up ordering 2 Bahama Mamas and while we were waiting for them to arrive, a waitress came around with shots 2 for $5 so of course we indulged. Then our drinks came… in the tallest thinnest cup I’ve ever seen. We got to keep both the shot glasses and the tall glass as souveniers. Our table was right next to water and overall, the atmosphere in this place was so much fun! After we went back to the ship, we got ready for dinner, ate, and then went back to the room to watch a movie and call it an early night.
Day 5- Sea Day
Because this was our last full day, mom and I decided to take advantage of some of the amenities on the ship. We woke up late and had a calm and filling breakfast from, you guessed it, the buffet. At 11:00, we had an appointment at the spa. I had never had a massage before, so I was excited. I got the 75 minute full body massage and facial; both were amazing. The spa service on Royal Caribbean was excellent- the people were friendly and the atmosphere was so calming. By the time we were done, it was almost 1:00, and it had started to rain. This meant we were pretty much confined to inside activities unless we wanted to get soaked. So, instead of laying out in the sun as we had planned, we went for lunch. After, we walked around the ship a bit and happened upon a Billy Joel “impersonator” in the atrium area. I absolutely LOVE Billy Joel so I was eager to stay and listen. I got some water and stood up top on one of the balconies as I listened to this guy play the piano and sing like Billy Joel, and I softly sang along.
When this was over, mom and I met up and we went back to the room to rest, because doing nothing all day really tires a girl out. It stopped raining late in the afternoon, so we went out on the balcony for a bit and enjoyed our last night on the water. Then we went for dinner and I enjoyed every morsel of food. I do have to say the food on board the ship was excellent every time I ate… which was a lot! When dinner was over, we went to the 7:00 final show at the theater. It was a fun performance, and the end was very much ABBA heavy. The performers dressed up as the iconic group and the band played a bunch of their songs as the singers belted out a mixture of Dancing Queen, Mama Mia, and more. At the end, all of the performers came out on stage, took a bow, and said what country they were from. Then, almost the whole staff of the ship, or representatives from each department, came onstage to applause from the audience to show our gratitude. One thing that’s neat about Royal Caribbean is that its staff are from all over the world. After the show, we packed up and went to bed.
The next, and last, day on the cruise mom and I set out to enjoy the buffet and the sun for one last time. By the time it was our time to disembark, we had taken our last stroll around the ship and said farewell to our Caribbean cruise. It was a wonderful five days that I wish would never end.
Ciao for now!