Destinations & Articles
Barbie Cruise on
Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas
by Jennifer Merrick
There’s no squabbling. Not once do I hear, ‘It’s not fair!’ You’d be forgiven for thinking I’m on a kid-free vacation, but I’m with my 9-year-old daughter, Danielle. Just her. Without her brother and Dad, it’s an entirely different dynamic, and a chance to connect without the competition of sibling rivalry.
And as it’s a Barbie Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s ‘Freedom of the Seas’, it’s also a chance to celebrate her girlhood before the dolls are put away forever.
Let the Fun Begin
The adventure starts at Universal Orlando Studios even before we board. A partnership with the cruise line means that you can combine a visit to the popular theme park with a Caribbean cruise in one package deal. We’re thrilled to feel the movies come alive, as we’re transformed into minions on the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride, rescue Princess Fiona with Shrek and Donkey in Shrek 4D, and speed through exploding fireballs on the Revenge of the Mummy.
Despite the heat, goose bumps appear when I first glimpse the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, astonished to see the setting of a book I spent so many bedtimes reading.
A Barbie Cruise
After this beginning, I’m worried the cruise might be disappointing. And it does get off to a rocky start. November winds are high enough to toss even the 150,000+ ton ship around. The drunken-like stagger down the corridor is fun for my daughter at first, but the novelty quickly wears out as the queasiness sets in.
Fortunately as the cruise continues into calmer waters, the smiles return. The on-board itinerary is a Barbie dream-come-true for the girls who are participating. The first surprise awaits inside our cabin with Barbie décor and gifts, including a satin pillowcase, tote bag, fleece blanket, and the doll herself, complete with wardrobe. It’s all part of the Barbie Premiere Experience that features events, workshops and movies.
Highlights are the Barbie Fashion Workshop, in which very glamourous real-life ‘Barbies’ show the girls how to create their own fashion clothes for their doll, and the Tiaras and Teacup Party. At this event we dress up, and bring our personalized invitation along with Barbie, of course, to the Portofino dining room overlooking the ocean. Our elegant Barbie hostesses graciously teach the girls the proper way to serve and drink tea (little sips; no slurping). The girls then serve the adults ‘tea’ (pink lemonade) and fancy, very pink, desserts on a silver tray. Barbie would be proud.
Pulling open the blinds on day four, we are treated to a scene worthy of any Caribbean postcard. Turquoise water, white-sand beaches, and red-roofed colonial homes dot the lush hills. My heart skips a beat. Now this is what I imagined, and I can’t wait to explore Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas US Virgin Islands. Sunscreen, water, hats, breakfast to go - check. And we’re off.
Our destination is none other than Blackbeard’s Castle, but first we have to climb 99 steps to get there. It’s worth every one of them for the panoramic views atop the stone tower built in 1679.
“Isn’t it gorgeous,” I gush.
“It’s OK, I guess,” my daughter says, and shrugs her shoulders, clearly not as impressed as I am. Nor is she much interested in the gory pirate lore (which I’m sure her brother would love) or the beautifully-maintained gardens and historic manor homes. Funnily enough what delights Danielle is a chicken running around freely!
Later that evening, back on the ship, she shows our friendly and patient waiter a dozen pictures on her camera of this incredible phenomena.
Our second island stop, St. Maarten, on day five, proves equally picturesque and charming. On a rented beach chair, I watch my daughter jumping on a water trampoline. As I do, I try to sear every detail in my memory – the color of the sea, the warmth of the sun, and the way the warm white sand massages my feet. I know that this memory will help me through the coming cold winter, and maybe even through the challenges of adolescent.
Tips for Cruising with Kids
Caroline Spencer Brown, editor of cruisecritic.com, says that cruises are ideal for grand parenting bonding, especially nowadays when so many families are spread out. Excellent childcare and programming, “allow plenty of opportunities for downtime”. She advises, however, to choose your cruise carefully.
“Smaller ships with educational programming (ie. river cruises, Galapagos islands) can be great learning experiences for older kids, but younger children will probably benefit from the programming of larger ships,” says Brown. She recommends Disney for younger kids and Royal Caribbean for all ages. Brown also cautions it’s important, “to be very clear from the outset about expectation of time that will be spent together.”
The Barbie Premium Experience, on Royal Caribbean, for girls 4 to 11 is available on all its ships for $199 per child. For more information on Royal Caribbean’s cruises, including its partnership with Universal Orlando visit:
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