Sailing with a Genie on the Wonder of the Seas

We sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas (the biggest cruise ship in the world) starting on April 8, 2022 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL for 7 nights to various destinations in the Western Caribbean. We had a 2-bedroom aqua theater suite, and as a result we got to enjoy the Star Class benefits with our own Royal Genie! Yes, our Genie really did make our wishes come true!

Day 1–Embarkation & Sailing Away

Since we had the Star Class, we had priority boarding—meaning we were able to board the ship as early as possible starting at 11am. Our Genie, Hannah, was in contact with us for a month before embarkation and she was able to answer any questions we had about boarding. She also provided specific Star Class information, such as a special entrance so we did not have to stand in the regular lines.

After checking in, Hannah greeted us at the boarding gangway before we boarded the ship and she escorted us directly to our room. It was super nice because the Wonder of the Seas is so large you could easily get lost. She even had a special card for the elevator to make it go directly to our floor without stopping. When we arrived at our room, she sat down with us and went over our itinerary. She even helped all of us get set up with the internet service (Voom). Since my husband unfortunately wasn’t able to come on this trip due to work schedule conflicts, we were able to kept him posted on our daily adventures with FaceTime using the ship Wi-Fi.

Our 2-bedroom aqua theater suite had one room with a king bed, another room with 2 twins (either pushed together or apart) and 2 pull-down beds, and a living room with a pull-out sofa bed. The suite also had two bathrooms. Altogether we fit 8 people and we didn’t feel crowded. The balcony was huge as well—there was a big table with chairs and two different sides that wrapped around the room. But in addition to all of that, the room’s main feature was that it overlooked the aqua theater show! (more on that later)

We had lunch at the Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade. All of the specialty restaurants are included with the Star Class (usually there is a cost to dine at these restaurants). Plus, the drink package is included in the Star Class as well, so we did not have to pay for any drinks on the cruise. It’s important to keep all this in mind when comparing costs associated with Star Class sailings.

After lunch, we toured the ship. This ship has so many cool features: a carousel, body slides, water slides, rock climbing walls, a kids climbing wall, a Flowrider (surfing), mini golf, a zip line, Central Park, an ice skating rink and more!

The ship even has an Adventure Ocean kids club where you can drop off your kids to have their own fun while you enjoy some adult activities. It is free except for the little kids room (0-36 months) which costs $6 per hour during normal business hours and more for off-times. It is first come first serve, so keep that in mind.

After touring the ship, it was time to sail away! We decided to enjoy saying goodbye to Ft. Lauderdale from our balcony, and our Genie was able to provide beverages for our own private sail away party. It was fun waiving to all the people along the coastline, although it can get pretty loud with all of the boats, cars, and trucks honking their horns.

For dinner, we ate at the Coastal Kitchen, which is an exclusive dining restaurant and suite lounge for select suite guests. The staff was beyond amazing—they entertained and played with with our kids while they served our meal. The food was amazing too! We ended up having several breakfasts and dinners here throughout our trip.

Another Star Class perk—our Genie was able to make all of our dinner reservations and change them, if needed. Additionally, our Genie visited us at dinner to make sure everything was going well and to provide us with a quick breakdown of the next day’s itinerary. She really made sure our vacation was stress-free!

After dinner we watched the aqua theater show from our balcony. The show is called Intense and it is a water show where the performers do amazing acrobatic tricks—such as diving from a 60’ platform into a 14-foot deep pool. Since this ship was so new, the whole show was not even in full production yet and was pieced together with a couple of other entertaining acts. Throughout our cruise, we were able to watch them practice several new parts, and the final show, when it’s completely put together, is going to be INTENSE!

Day 2–Day at Sea

We love spending a full day at sea because there is so much to do on board. We spent most of the day at the pools! This ship has one of the biggest kids splash pads at sea. It even has several slides that the young ones can play on. This is a major perk sailing on a bigger ship! Other ships do not allow kids to go into any of the pools if they are not 100% potty trained.

For dinner we ate at Chops Grille, which is a specialty steakhouse with delicious steaks and seafood. Again, it was included as part of our Star Class benefits where this restaurant is typically an additional $50-$80 charge per person. Most Royal Caribbean ships have a Chops a grille and it’s definitely a nice place to dine.

Day 3–Roatan, Honduras 🇭🇳

Roatan is an island off the northern coast of Honduras known for having the second largest coral reef in the world. Our Genie was able to escort us off the ship, which was nice because it can be quite busy trying to get off the ship at the start of the day. Our excursion, which we booked through Royal Caribbean, was a semi-sub glass bottom boat tour. I would highly recommend this excursion if you have small children who can’t go snorkeling yet. It’s the prettiest coral I’ve ever seen before (and this compares to Cozumel and Hawaii)—it’s quite a sight to see! After the boat tour, we went on a city bus tour around half of the island where we stopped at a chocolate factory and a small marketplace. It was really fun seeing and getting a taste of the culture of the island.

After an action-packed day one of my boys was extra tired, so he and I ended up eating back in our room. Another Star class perk—we had dinner from Giovanni’s Italian restaurant brought to our room! The tiramisu was my favorite dessert on the ship 😁.

Day 4–Cozumel, Mexico 🇲🇽

In Cozumel, we booked a Grand Deluxe Beach Break excursion through Royal Caribbean where we went to Playa Mia. Drinks, food, water activities, and more were all included with the excursion. We had the best time here and there really was a little bit of something for everyone of all ages!

For kids, there is a fun splash area with small water slides. For taller kids and adults, there were bigger slides. My older son was tall enough to ride on these slides and he loved them! For advanced swimmers, there was a fun floating ocean park as well. Available for all ages, there were two big pools, the beach, and of course the ocean. Overall, we had so much fun here and we would definitely recommend it and will try to visit Playa Mia at Cozumel again!

Back on the ship, we had dinner at Izumi—a Hibachi restaurant. Our chef was great because he made kid-friendly jokes and included them in the fun. At one point we were all singing Baby Shark, haha. Plus, he made a Mickey shaped out of fried rice. Super fun!

Day 5–Costa Maya, Mexico 🇲🇽

We booked another excursion through Royal Caribbean and it was the Costa Maya town highlights and beach break. Honestly, it wasn’t our favorite excursion. The town is quite small and there was not a whole lot to see, but it was still interesting to visit a new place.

As part of the excursion we visited the village of Mahahual, which had a light house and sign to take a picture in front of (that’s about it). After that, we traveled to the Blue Kay beach. This was a small beach and there was quite a bit of seaweed washed up on the shore. There were sand bags at the edge of the water on a section of the beach as well, which kind of spoiled the appeal. Part of my family tried to snorkel, but it wasn’t the greatest and they only saw a couple fish. One cool thing about the area though was that it had ocean hammocks—unfortunately a little hard to do with small kids. Overall, I wouldn’t really recommend this excursion, but hey, not every experience is going to be winner all the time.

Back at port, there was a dolphin discovery, an aviary, a pool, and a shopping center. The individual attractions each have an additional charge, but you can walk by them without buying a ticket to get in. It was fun seeing the dolphins and the birds!

Day 6–Day at Sea

I started my day off with a hot stone massage at the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center. Cruise massages are the best because you can feel the rocking of the boat while getting an amazing and relaxing massage. The spa facility is huge—there are two floors and it offers services ranging from massages to salon services. It’s definitely worth pampering yourself at this amazing spa! I didn’t get around to checking out the fitness center, but I heard it’s amazing too. There are even group classes available and Peloton bikes to ride (next time, right?).

Next, was pool time with the family. We spent most of our day here enjoying the nice Caribbean weather and the fresh sea breeze. One fun on-ship activity for my sons was to go on a scavenger hunt to find three astronauts on the ship and to take pictures with them. Super simple, but lots of fun.

For lunch, we ate at El Loco Fresh—a Mexican food buffet-style restaurant. It’s a great quick option when you’re on the go and it’s included at no additional charge for all passengers. After lunch, my older son was able to play a round of miniature golf. There are so many activities to enjoy on board the ship that a day at sea is anything but boring! Another Star Class perk—wristbands are available to skip lines at attractions (except during select hours days at sea 1:00pm-4:00pm). We got these wristbands but didn’t actually end up using them.

Day 7–Coco Cay, Bahamas 🇧🇸

Royal Caribbean’s private island, Coco Cay, is one of our favorite cruise destinations. There are so many activities to do whether you’re on the Chill side or the Thrill side. We rented a cabana at the Oasis lagoon pool (located on the Chill side) and we had full food and beverage service available. It was great because sand toys were also available for my sons to play with.

The Thrill side includes the tallest water slide in North America, Daredevil’s Peak. I’ve done this slide two times on previous trips and it is quite the thrill! Unfortunately I didn’t get to do it on this trip. There are several fun splash pads and smaller slides for kids though and we had a lot of fun. There is truly something for everyone at this island! Our one complaint was that it seemed really crowded with both an Oasis class and a Freedom class ship visiting the island at the same time. Hopefully they don’t continue to pack the island like that because long lines and crowded pools make it a lot less fun.

We finished our cruise with an amazing ice show called Ice Show 365. It was a really fun family friendly show. My kids loved it and they wished they could have seen it again if the cruise was longer. The final Star Class perk—our Genie was able to reserve front row seating for us.

Overall, we had an amazing cruise sailing in the Western Caribbean on the world’s biggest cruise ship, the Wonder of the Seas! It was amazing having a Genie with the Star Class benefits and it was definitely a very unique and fun experience. Regardless of whether or not you book a Star Class suite with a wish-granting Genie, we highly recommend going on this ship, and the itinerary was perfect for a family of all ages as well. What a Wonder-ful adventure!


4 Magical Days At Disney World

Usually when we travel to Disney World, we spend at least a week there. But this time we were only there 4 days since we were going on a 7 night Caribbean cruise immediately after. Read how we fit some of the top things to do at Disney World in only 4 days.

Day 1

We flew into Orlando International Airport on April 3rd, and arrived at Disney World in the late afternoon. We stayed at Disney’s Riviera Resort, which is the newest resort on Disney World property, just opening December 2019. The design is influenced by the French Riviera in the Mediterranean (hence the name). When we arrived at the resort, Pluto and Goofy were there to greet us. This doesn’t happen all the time though—we just got lucky!

We stayed in a 1 bedroom villa with 1 King bed, 1 Queen-size pull down bed, and 1 single pull down bed. I brought an additional toddler blow-up mattress for my 2 year old. In total, we had 6 people in that villa and there was plenty of room for all of us. It’s a great option because it includes a full kitchen, a washer, and a dryer, and we definitely took advantage of the washer and dryer before going on our cruise. The view of the room overlooked the hotel front entry and Epcot was visible in the distance. It was quite a nice view for a standard view room! I highly recommend this villa for a family or group.

After getting settled into our room, we took the Skyliner for an evening at Epcot. The Skyliner is super convenient because you do not have to drive or take a bus to Epcot or Hollywood Studios from hotels located on the system, plus you do not have to collapse a single stroller. Since you can push the stroller straight onto the Skyliner gondolas, this is a major benefit when you have a sleeping kid.

The flower and garden festival was at Epcot. This is one of my favorite times to go there because the flowers are so beautiful and there are a lot of delicious drinks and food options as well. One of the special drinks I got was the Violet Lemonade—there was even an edible flower on top!

My kids had a blast looking at all the special topiaries. It makes for a special scavenger hunt. Plus, there was an Easter egg hunt while we were there too! We found most of them in all the different countries.

We finished the night off by watching the Harmonius Spectacular. It is a water show with lights, images projected on mist, music, and fireworks. It was my first time watching this show and it was definitely spectacular!

Day 2

We spent the whole day at Magic Kingdom! This park has the most rides and there is so much to do. Usually we spend at least 2 days at this park, but this trip we packed as much as possible into just 1 day.

We purchased the genie service, which is similar to the old fast pass system. However, unlike fast passes, this service costs extra and select additional lightning lane passes cost extra on top of that. Personally, I am not a fan of this new system. With increased crowds, availability for the passes were even limited, and even though there is an additional cost involved, it is a way to ride the most rides possible in one day. In total, we rode 8 rides throughout the day: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Under the Sea-Journey of The Little Mermaid, Space Mountain, The People Mover, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

At the end of the day, we went to a fireworks dessert party. It started out at the Tomorrowland Terrace for drinks and treats. Then, we were escorted to a reserved standing area in the Magic Kingdom plaza garden to watch the fireworks. I highly recommend this if you would like to see the castle and fireworks in a great location. Without reserved spots, it’s hard to get a good spot unless you camp out several hours beforehand (which means you aren’t getting to go on rides).

Day 3

We visited Hollywood Studios! This park has added a lot of new rides in recent years, and it really seems like a whole new park with all the new additions. We purchased the genie service at this park as well, and it was helpful because we were able to ride the Rise of Resistance without a long line. However, since the park was very crowded, our genie service selections were very limited, and were unable to ride Slinky Dog Dash and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Word of advice, don’t expect to ride all of the rides in one day. Multiple days are needed at this park if you want to experience everything.

For lunch, we went to the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. It was my first time eating here and it definitely exceeded my expectations. It’s a great place to eat while staying out of the heat and enjoying the air-conditioning. It’s fun because it is 50s drive-in theater themed and you sit in a car and watch 50s shows and cartoons. It’s perfect for the whole family, and this is a restaurant you’ll want to book well ahead of your visit. Availability fills up fast!

After lunch, we went to Galaxy’s Edge. It’s a whole Star Wars themed land and it is amazing! You can definitely spend a lot of time here. There are rides, restaurants, shops, shows and more!

In Galaxy’s Edge, we went to Oga’s Cantina for late afternoon snacks and drinks. This is such a fun place and bar-like, but it is still very family friendly. I had the Bespin Fizz (alcoholic) and my boys had the carbon freezes (non-alcoholic). Additionally, I had the Rodian Ration which was basically a Jell-O shot with pop-rock candy. It was super sweet, but delicious. For snacks, we had the Batuu Bits (not pictured) and the Happabore Sampler. Overall, I highly recommend this place and reservations are needed as soon as it becomes available—it’s another place that’s really hard to get in.

After an action-packed day at Hollywood Studios, we went back to Disney’s Riviera for an evening swim to cool off (it had gotten up to 92 degrees!). On hotel property there are a couple of big pools, a water slide, and a little kids splash pad. My kids could spend a whole day here just at the pool without going to any parks, which is something we do on longer trips.

We ended the night back in the room watching Epcot and Magic Kingdom fireworks (you could see both!). We brought up wine and desserts from the quick service restaurant (Primo Piatto). I love watching fireworks just in the room sometimes because my little kids can go to bed on time.

Day 4

We had a character breakfast at Disney’s Riviera Topolino’s Terrace. The breakfast was amazing! For kids, they have Mickey waffle pops, and my sons were able to dip the waffles in delicious toppings. They had so much fun eating them! It was fun seeing the characters as well and they came to each table for pictures. I highly recommend this restaurant for a character breakfast or a dinner. Since this restaurant is on top of the roof, it has amazing views!

After we had breakfast, we went to Disney Springs for shopping and lunch at the Boathouse. This is one of our favorite restaurants at Disney Springs. The drinks and food are great with a fun boating-themed atmosphere. I drank the Duck Duck Razz. I love this drink not only because it tastes good, but also because it comes with a rubber ducky floating on top. Our table of 8 shared a big bowl of shrimp as an appetizer. This restaurant specializes in seafood and beef, so that’s why we ordered so much shrimp (we live in Colorado where the seafood isn’t nearly as fresh). For my meal I had the filet mignon sliders (not pictured), which is definitely my favorite dish there. If you visit Disney Springs this is a restaurant that won’t disappoint.

After Disney Springs, we took the Skyliner to Epcot again so we could walk around and enjoy more of the flower and garden festival. Plus, we rode a couple of rides as well. Frozen, is one of our favorite rides there. This park has so much to enjoy that it’s the only park we visited two times on our short time schedule.

Overall, we had an amazing 4 days at Disney World and we can’t wait to go back again! This was shorter than our usual trip but it was still super fun.

The Adventure Continues…

Read our next blog post about our Royal Caribbean 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Wonder of the Seas!

10 Reasons Why You’ll Love Aulani

Aulani, a Disney resort and spa is, in our opinion, the best family-friendly hotel in Hawaii. We have been there multiple times and each time was, to sum it up in one word, magical. As of this posting, our most-recent family trip was February 2022 and, oh yes— we’ll be back!

So, why do we love Aulani so much? Between the beautiful views, the tasty food options, and the vast array of activities, not to mention plenty of opportunities to see some of our favorite Disney characters, there’s a lot to talk about. We’ve pared it down to a list of our top 10 favorites.

1. The Location

Aulani is located in Ko Olina, Oahu, which is tucked away on the southwest side of the island about 25 miles northwest of the main city of Honolulu. We’ve stayed in Honolulu before, but it is quite crowded and busy— not necessarily the quiet and relaxing atmosphere we look for on a trip to the islands. The area of Ko Olina encompasses 642 acres of beautiful land and includes four ocean lagoons. The lagoon Aulani sits on has breathtaking views and is great for both kid-friendly swimming and beach play.

Ko Olina also has a cute little shopping village containing a marketplace, shops, and restaurants and it’s all within walking distance. The market carries personal necessities, beach items, a full grocery store, and has a pretty decent liquor section as well. There we were able to stock up on food and beverage items as well as extra beach towels and sunscreen. We ate dinner at the Monkey Pod and would highly recommend it. We shared a delicious hand-tossed pizza with Kalua pork, macnut pesto, roasted pineapple, jalapeño, and green onions and there were also complimentary buttered noodles for the kids. For dessert, we stopped next door at Black Sheep Cream Co. for ice cream. They have some really unique flavors that change daily. We had a few of the flavors and they are all so delicious! We would highly recommend this place as well.

Overall Ko Olina is quiet and laid back (but still lots of fun!), easy to get to, and has everything you need for a great stay. And did we already mention beautiful views? If so, it’s worth saying twice.

2. The Water Park Pools and Activities

Aulani has three main pools, two water slides, a lazy river, a kids play area, a baby splash pad, and several hot tubs. There is truly a little bit of everything for everyone, and we were able to include several full pool days and a few half days on our 11-day vacation without getting bored. If you find yourself in the infinity pool, make sure to go underwater and listen…

3. The Reef

The Reef is a contained snorkeling area (pool) with lots of different kinds of fish. It’s a lot of fun for adults and it’s a perfect place for little kids to learn how to snorkel as well without the fear of sea creatures out in the ocean (not sure if they offer lessons though). We’ve done a good bit of open-water snorkeling and the Reef actually had the most fish we’ve ever seen! We went several times during our stay and think it’s a must do while at Aulani.

4. The Lū’au

Aulani has their own private Lū’au on-property! We got priority seating so we could sit closer to the front and would would recommend it since the venue is so large; it would be a bit hard to see in the back. We thought it was great and our kids absolutely loved it and wanted to go back the next day! (We didn’t though; it was booked). The lū’au includes a delicious 3 course meal, drinks, traditional music and Hawaiian stories, lei bracelet making, learning how to do a hula dance, and more. Mickey Mouse made an appearance as well (you are at a Disney hotel, after all) but the main focus was on the Hawaiian cultural experience. It’s truly an experience you don’t want to miss.

5. The Food & Drinks

The food and drinks are all so delicious! For breakfast, the tropical açaí bowl was definitely a favorite. We also had a super fun character breakfast at Makahiki. For lunch and dinner, there are a variety of options from standard sit-down meals to quick poolside bites (try the poke nachos!). The snacks are great too. The Mickey shaved ice is a must and perfect for a hot day, and the Stitch sundae-pineapple and watermelon Dole whip over fresh watermelon in a waffle cone bowl with sprinkles on top was our favorite treat during the whole trip! And finally, we have to mention the drinks. They are all super good and refreshing and came with fun decorative flowers! 🌸🍹

6. The Daily Activities

Aulani has so much to do! There are lots activities throughout the day and you can find them conveniently listed in the Aulani app. For example, there are character greetings, ukulele lessons, hair-braiding, crafts for making Mickey ears, night time pool stories, and so much more! Really, it’s hard to fit it all in so pick your favorites and save the others for next time, right? 😉

7. The Beach

Aulani has an awesome ocean lagoon and it’s perfect for the whole family. The sand is fine and great for sand castle building, there are lots of lounge chairs available, stand up paddle boards are available for hourly rental, and the swim area is consistently wadeable without a big drop off . It’s one of our favorite beaches! Since it’s sheltered from the bigger ocean waves, it’s a perfect place for little kids to play in the ocean without being swept away (unlike the beaches at the North Shore; those waves are awesome, but a bit intense for young kids! 🌊)

8. Excursions

On one of our excursions we took a sailing canoe trip out along the coastline near Ko Olina, and it was incredible! The canoe leaves and drops off at the lagoon beach (see above) so it’s super easy to get to/from. There’s something truly magical about ridding on an outrigger with the breeze in your hair while you cut through the waves (it’s a real Moana vibe 😉). While you’re out there, you’ll probably see some wildlife as well! We saw a few whales, a sea turtle, and some monk seals. We highly recommend going on one of these! Make sure to check out Hawaiian Ocean Adventures. You can book through the hotel, down at the beach, or through their website.

The second excursion we booked through Aulani was surfing lessons at Eisenhower Beach about 8 miles away. The waves were perfect for beginner surfers and we had a blast! They provided longboards, which are a bit easier to get up on for newbies, and there was a photographer on the beach who took some great action shots. We’d do it again in a heartbeat!

9. DVC Hotel

We aren’t Disney Vacation Club members, but this hotel is a part of the program and they have lots of information available in case you’re curious and want to check into joining. It sounds like a great deal if you go to a Disney property frequently, and it’s good to know that not all DVC hotels are at the Disney Parks. Maybe someday we’ll become DVC members…

10. Magical

Overall Aulani is our favorite resort, hands down. Immediately upon walking through the front door for the first time, you can just feel the energy that this is a very special place—and that energy lasts throughout the entire stay. The atmosphere is simply magical and you can feel it throughout the property. From the murals along the ceiling telling stories of Hawaiian culture, the torches that light up the paths at night, the menehune that can be found hiding in unexpected places, and the super friendly and smiling staff, you can definitely feel the Aloha. It really is the best family resort of anywhere we’ve stayed, and if you haven’t been already, you definitely need to add it to your travel bucket list. Aloha! 🤙