In August 2023 we decided to take a cruise with our two daughters, Maya (3.5 years old) and Sophie (10 months old).
We did the cruise through Royal Caribbean and booked the cruise directly from the website.
In June 2017, we did a cruise with NCL as a couple and we really liked the concept, so we decided to do a family cruise this time.
Brief summary about the cruise
When: end of August 2023
Who: a couple + a baby and a girl
Company: Royal Caribbean
Ship type: Rhapsody of the seas
How long: 8 days (7 nights)
Where did the cruise depart from: we started the cruise in Limassol, Cyprus, but it had departed from Israel
Cruise route: Haifa (Israel) – Limassol (Cyprus) – Rhodes (Greece) – Mykonos (Greece) – Santorini (Greece) – Athens (Greece) – Haifa (Israel)
Room type: mini suite
Cost for the whole family: 5000$ + tips
We did the cruise at the end of August so you have to take into account that the prices are higher because it is the peak of the season.
Although the ship was fully booked, we did not feel crowded and apart from waiting once for five minutes for breakfast, we did not wait at all.
Why is a cruise an ideal family vacation?
Since the girls were born, we’ve discovered that we really connect with the concept of an all-inclusive hotel. Because what could be more convenient than food available all the time, activities for children and resting as much as possible? So this time we decided to upgrade the all-inclusive vacation and go on a cruise, which is basically the same concept, only bigger and more special.
The ship has everything you could want for you and the children.
High-quality food at any hour and in all kinds of styles. Activities for children including shows, competitions, dances, a children’s club, a babies’ club, arcade and more.
Pools, Jacuzzis and special attractions (depending on the type of ship, we also had a climbing wall).
Bars, casino and chef restaurants (for an additional fee).
In addition to the ship, which is like its own city, every day the tour stops at a different destination, which is a really fun thing in my opinion.
Every day there is a new view and you can leave the ship and explore each destination independently or on an organized tour (you can order tours from the ship or find them yourself and book in advance).
The cruise allows you to go on a light vacation without planning things too much and to enjoy the facilities. To top it all, if you also want to explore new destinations then you can leave the ship when it is docked and go walk around for a few hours every day at a different location.
Details about the Royal Caribbean cruise departing from Israel
1. We took a cruise with Royal Caribbean. I booked one that does an 8-day circuit trip from Limassol back to Limassol. When we boarded the ship it turned out that the cruise had started the day before in Haifa from Israel. This means that the absolute majority on the ship were Israelis, there were signs in Hebrew and even occasionally songs in Hebrew (you decide for yourself if it’s okay or not).
2. There are several types of rooms: an interior room without a window, a room with a window, a room with a balcony, a mini suite, and a suite.
3. We booked the mini suite and paid 5000 dollars for 4 people. In retrospect it was not worth the price and we had to take the room with the balcony which cost around 3800 dollars. Much more value for the money.
4. There are activities all day, every day. Shows, competitions, games, dances, workshops. The activities can be for children, families, adults and young people.
5. The food was of a high standard and really tasty, there was great variety in the buffet.
6. The destinations we stopped at were: Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, and Athens. We didn’t take tours of any destination, we preferred to wander alone with the girls and really enjoyed exploring each place on our own.
7. The price for the cruise includes all activities and food, but there are 2 paid restaurants and the price does not include alcohol and drinks such as cappuccinos, espressos, etc. There are snacks all day such as pizzas, fruits, American ice cream, cookies and more.
8. The service on the ship is amazing. Everyone is very kind and smiling all the time.
9. Our room was cleaned twice a day, but I don’t know if it’s like that for all the types of room or if it’s because we booked the mini suite.
10. We booked the cruise four months in advance directly from the company’s website.
11. The ship has: a casino, a playroom for babies, a playroom for children with supervisors (without parents), a cafe, bars, a pool, a Jacuzzi, a spa, a gym, an area for adults only, shops, two buffet dining rooms, a Japanese restaurant for a fee, a paid chef restaurant, restaurant for kosher keepers.
12. On each day we arrived at a new destination and docked directly at a port, with the exception of when we reached Santorini, where the ship docked close to the port and we arrived at the port by boat from the ship. When arriving at any destination, there is public transportation such as taxis and buses with which you can go wherever you want.
13. On the ship every person has a magnetic card and every time you want to buy something you hand over the card and only at the end of the cruise do you pay for all the extra things you purchased.
14. There is always water and soft drinks available for free as well as black coffee.
The route of the cruise departing from Israel
The destinations we stopped at on the cruise were really nice with kids. We personally didn’t book tours and preferred to explore each destination on our own at our own pace.
As I wrote at the beginning, we started the cruise from Limassol because we live in Cyprus, but the cruise parted from Israel. If you are looking for recommendations about Limassol, you can find many posts here on the blog.
The ship docks right next to the port of Rhodes, which means that you can easily get off the ship and reach the old town on foot. There aren’t too many things to do with children in the old town of Rhodes, but because we were with a baby and we didn’t want to bother her too much, we preferred to just wander around the old city, have lunch there, and then continue to the aquarium (the aquarium is really small and nothing special, but Maya had a great time there).
There is a water park in Rhodes that I have been to twice before and it is great for both adults and children, so if you are looking for an attraction that is a little more fun with the kids while stopping in Rhodes, I do recommend it.
On the previous cruise we did, we also stopped in Mykonos. When we docked with the NCL ship we were close to the old city but the Royal Caribbean stops at a slightly further location, so there are several options to get from the ship to the old city. The cheapest options are the bus that comes frequently or a bus ferry that has a stop right next to where the ship docks. I thought it was possible to reach the old city by foot, but after 15 minutes of walking with Maya on the road and with the wind, we gave up and I ordered a taxi. The taxi was expensive and there was a lot of traffic at the entrance to the old city so it probably wasn’t the best option :).
Mykonos is stunning and I personally can walk for hours among the alleys and take pictures there. Last time we also hadn’t done too much, just a tour of the city and went to a small beach there, where we ate ice cream at the seaside and had lunch.
The truth is that I originally was a little afraid to travel in Santorini with the girls because there are a lot of stairs and it’s difficult to get up there by foot. It’s possible to get there on the cable car, but there usually is a very long line for it.
However, we had learned from last time what to do and in the end the visit to Santorini was really successful with the girls. Last time we had left the ship early in the morning but everyone else also chooses this option and what happens is that then there is a crazy line for the cable car (over an hour) or you have to go up on foot (or on donkeys, which I am against this option) and it is a difficult and exhausting ascent of at least half an hour that’s even worse with the August heat.
This time we decided to leave the ship at noon because the stop in Santorini was until the night. And this decision ended up being excellent because we were the only ones out at that hour, and we were the only ones on the cable car, which meant that we got on without waiting a minute in line. One mistake we did make, however, was that we took a stroller with us and you can’t walk around Santorini with one. So we decided to go around only with a baby carrier (we left the stroller on the side close to the cable car and it was stolen – no doubt we were too naive when we thought no one would take it). Anyway we walked around with Sophie in the carrier and with Maya on foot and we had a really nice time.
We eventually decided to sit down to eat something small and drink wine at a stunning place called Franco’s bar, which was pleasant.
In short, a tour of a few hours with children in Santorini can be extremely enjoyable, especially when you are there at sunset with a glass of wine.
We were in Athens in December 2017 for a week and we loved this city, as it’s a fun and interesting place, filled with many bars, cafes, taverns, markets and entertaining tours. Here’s a post I wrote about recommendations for Athens.
The Royal Caribbean docks at the port and to get to the city center you can take a train, which is really convenient and fast because then there are stations in central places throughout. Otherwise, you can take a bus or taxi from the port to arrive there.
In Athens we also just walked around the city. We started the day with coffee at a cafe in a cool hostel called Athens Hub Hostel, which is a place with a youthful atmosphere and fresh juices and delicious coffee.
Then we went for a walk around the Monastiraki flea market and had lunch close to the market at a Greek food restaurant.
Important things to know before booking a cruise
1. For those traveling with a baby or toddler, it is important for me to point out that it is not allowed to put them in the pool on a cruise if they still wear diapers for fear of bacteria from the urine or feces. It’s like that in all the American cruise companies, like Royal and Norwegian, and we weren’t aware of this before. There are ships that have a special pool for babies, but the one from Israel and Cyprus does not.
2. There is an obligation to tip (on all cruises in all companies there is an obligation to pay tips) which costs $16 per person per day (it cost us around $450 extra for 4 people).
I’ve received messages from different people who claim that they went to the reception and asked not to pay the tips and pay the room cleaner themselves, and that they were approved with no more issues.
I personally haven’t done it that way, and we just paid for the tips.
3. The ship that departs from Israel and Cyprus is the Rhapsody of the Seas. It is a relatively old ship and does not have attractions such as slides or the kinds of other facilities that are available on newer ships.
Our lessons for the next cruise
1. Next time we will book the room with the balcony; it is more affordable than the mini suite, which is only a little bigger and has a coffee machine and bathrobes but costs 30% more.
2. We’ll fly to another destination in order to take a cruise on a newer ship with more attractions.
We really enjoyed the cruise and so did the girls, but we definitely learned lessons for next time and there is no doubt that the day is not far off when we will do another whole-family cruise because it was a great vacation and especially when Sophie grows up a little more it will be amazing. If you are an all-inclusive hotel kind of person, then you will certainly enjoy a cruise as well. If you are a person who likes nature, peace, and boutique hotels more, then probably a less high-end cruise will also suit you.
I would love to hear what your experiences have been like if you’ve taken a cruise before.