Clever Nomad

Traveling Cleverly Since 2001

on Friday, September 13, 2013 | 1 comments
Prior to having the Wee Nomads, I sought off-the-beaten track locations when we traveled. In fact, the greater the number of dilapidated land rovers and arguably air-worthy flights it took to get there, the better. Now? I much prefer our pilot doesn't explain that "this engine the bad one." I just had these kiddos, I want to live, ya dig? Commercial air travel is my friend.

Mr. Nomad had always wanted to go to Atlantis in the Bahamas, and I'd always resisted, for the following reasons (in no particular order): too expensive, how good could it be, can you say tourist trap, it's pink, it's Nassau.

Well, there's no other way to say this. Mr. Nomad was RIGHT. Score one for the big man.

This was to be our third big trip this year, so the budget would be tight, as in, we had to come in around $2,000 on flight and accommodations. Yes, for four people (well, really five, but we'll get to that later). I thought I was a tad crazy for even attempting to do this on the cheap, but here's how I did it:

Flights: We found a great deal on Delta, direct from Atlanta. Our tickets came out to $597 for the four of us (remember, Wee Nomad #2 is just barely under two, so we could have him in our lap).

Accommodations: Instead of one of the Atlantis hotels, I opted to place us in the Harborside Resort at Atlantis timeshares. These are a Starwood timeshare property. Units can be rented directly through Atlantis or by owner. I used an owner because this avoids all taxes (around $100 more per night). We found a rental for our dates for $1475. It was a one-bedroom premium unit, which sleeps five people in 980 square feet. Well, with all this extra space, why not bring someone along?! Why not indeed, so the invitation was extended to my mother (Mimi), who loves anywhere she can gamble. 

We were in a ground-floor unit, which worked great since we didn't have to tangle with a stroller and stairs/elevators. Toddlers and elevators are not my favorite combination. The floorplan of our unit shows we had a generously-sized bathroom and master bedroom. To accommodate everyone, we ordered an extra twin bed for $5 a day for Wee Nomad #1, and a crib for Wee Nomad #2. My mom slept in the den on the queen sleeper sofa bed. She said it was comfortable. I think she was just relieved to be alone for 8 hours in a row. Here's the view from our deck:

Food: Now, see, this is where they get you. You can opt for a (pricey) meal plan. If your kids eat a lot, or you really just want to go all out, get a meal plan. Since we were on the aforementioned budget, we used one of our free checked bags to bring a ton of dry goods from home: coffee, sugar, mac n cheese (Annie's, of course), snacks, cereal, pasta. I think I spent about $100 on snacks before we left. Then, I used a really awesome service called to order perishables. This is a grocery delivery service with an online ordering mechanism and they were flawless. You choose a one-hour delivery window, and not only do they come ON TIME (I was flabbergasted, being all to familiar with "island time") but they put the groceries away for you. I think we spent about $200 on meats, cheeses, eggs, breads, spaghetti sauces, milks, water and some wine. You cannot forget the wine, even if it's overpriced bargain brand. It does the job.

So, let's tally, I think we're at $2,372.00 for five nights, including most meals. We went out to eat twice with the children, once to Bimini Road in the Marina Marketplace. Service was efficient, food decent, but I am not in a huge hurry to return. We went out a second time to one of the few "local" places left on Paradise Island, the Green Parrot. This is where Atlantis employees go to grab a beer before heading back home over the bridge. Really friendly service and I thought good food. Better than the quick serve places at the resort for sure! 

Our routine was pretty basic, and we settled in quickly. We got up in the mornings, cobbled some breakfast together for the kids and some coffee together for the big kids. Then, we'd load 'em up, take the Harborside shuttle to Royal Towers (a 5 minute drive), and park beside a pool. Any pool. My favorite part about Atlantis is they have quite a few pools that are two feet or less in depth. This allows you to sit in the pool while your little guys toddle around and you don't have to fear they will wander into the deep end. I'm not saying we didn't supervise, but I am saying watching two under four is a lot easier if the pool has a maximum depth of 18 inches. Plus, this place was full of little slides (thrilling for tiny ones), squirting water features, lazy rivers, and... my favorite, LIFE JACKET STANDS! In all sizes! So you didn't have to bring them from home!!!!

Once we'd worn the kids out (usually less than three hours and two snacks later (the "little" guy has a tapeworm or somthing)), we'd return to our condo, eat a sandwich and the Wee Nomads would take a nap. Okay, I would usually take a nap too, but don't judge me. Two adults would then go back out - either to explore, go to the beach or hit the casino. If my mom was choosing, it was the casino, baby. 

Once the kids got up, we either went out exploring the lagoons and sea life around the resort, or we walked around to view the yachts or listened to music in Marina Marketplace. We had one day that was a near wash-out, but thanks to the DVD player in our unit (and the DVDs and microwave popcorn that yours truly had packed), the kids were mightily entertained. 

Once the kids were in bed around 8:30, two of the adults went back out. That's right, date night, sometimes with me and Mr. Nomad, sometimes with me and my mom, other times with Mr. Nomad and my mom. It was romance at its highest.

We did have one splurge date dinner at Mesa Grill for Mr. Nomad and I. I've always wanted to go to the one in Vegas, but we never got around to it. What better time than now? I had the spice rubbed pork tenderloin, and it was incredible if anyone cares. The margaritas are a bit dangerous, so have three.

Look, to sum it up, Atlantis was some of the things I expected it to be: pink, expensive, tourist trap-py. However, it was also a lot of things I didn't expect: friendly, fast service, clean, FUN, beautiful, and so, so easy for families with children. I mean this is a stupid easy way to give yourself a real vacation while your kids are with you. If you are so inclined, the property has children's clubs for kids over three. We will skip these until our youngest is three and our boys can be together, but the parents we spoke to said their kids were having a blast in the children's club. Now, stay out of the darn casino and this can really be a bargain trip!

on Friday, March 8, 2013 | 2 comments

I love writing trip reports, but my schedule these days rarely leaves time for me to put the effort in that I would like to. Regardless, I know there are people out there who appreciate reviews because it (1) gives them information to assist in planning their vacation, and (2) gives them something to look forward to during that long span of time between vacations.

So, when we last left off, I'd shown the readers our awesome suite. Though we spent a decent amount of time in our room, most of the fun stuff occurred elsewhere on or off the ship. A few words about cruising with kids and Royal Caribbean's kids clubs:

Cruising with Young Children: Our kids are 16 months and 3 years. Deciding to cruise was a gamble. Would it go well or be a terrible mistake? In our case, it went well. Much better than I anticipated. Instead of the daily skirmishes over toys, our boys actually enjoyed one another for a change. They loved the close quarters of a cruise ship cabin and enjoyed rolling around on the floor and giggling. Since both Mr. Nomad and I work, we often find that our children end up competing for our attention, rather than playing with one another. Because they were with us nearly all the time on this vacation, they spent a lot of time playing and being "silly guys" (my 3 year old's words) together.

Our older son shared a bedroom with my mom. The noises the ship made did frighten him at times and I found myself either laying with him so he could sleep or welcoming him in to our bed in the wee morning hours. It was really no big deal, but something we haven't experienced before on vacation.

For those who are wondering, we brought a single umbrella stroller on the ship. We used a Royal Caribbean-provided pack n play for the baby. We brought our own diapers, wipes and sippy cups for the baby. Add to that a few toys from home and arm floaties for the kids and that concluded the amount of "stuff" we lugged from home. If I were to repeat, I'd do it no other way. Our 3 year old didn't need to be picked up enough to warrant a double stroller. It would have just been a hindrance.

Royal Caribbean Adventure Ocean: Honestly, we had a good experience. Our three year old just qualified for Aquanauts, having celebrated a birthday in December. After tears for the first two drop offs, he quickly began to look forward to going to the kids club and was begging us to go by the end of the trip. I felt the staff did a good job keeping them entertained and well-behaved. Honestly, after the first day, I didn't worry much about our 3 year old. I was initially a tad concerned about the potty part just because the staff aren't allowed in with the kids to the toilet (which I understand). I was worried our son would have an accident from missing the target, if you catch my drift. But, it really was no problem and nary an accident was had by our child.

Royal Babies: Our baby (16 months at the time) was able to attend the pay-by-the-hour Royal Babies nursery. I loved the women who worked in the nursery aboard Freedom OTS. They genuinely liked babies and all of the little ones seemed very happy whenever we stopped by. Anytime a baby was upset, a staff member was rocking and doing her best to calm the child down. Our little guy has never met a stranger and he LOVED it there. I know people have complained about no "organized" activities for kids in the 2-year age range, but honestly the 2 year olds I saw enjoyed playing with toys and watching some TV or napping on a cot. I thought it was a warm, friendly space with really nice caregivers who inspired confidence in nervous parents. We never had problems getting a spot during our cruise and we probably used about 28-30 hours over the course of the week (largely in the evenings).

Sea Days: This cruise has two sea days, the first full day and the last full day. Because it was February and we left from Port Canaveral, I knew the weather could be iffy. Indeed, the first and last days were a tad cold for my preference. The Canadians on board didn't seem to mind, but I'm from Georgia! We simply don't tolerate "chilly" well in bathing suits. On those days, the hot tubs were receiving good use, including from myself and my 3 year old, who fell in love with the warm, bubbly pools. Our sea days were of little note - some sleeping, some reading, some playing in the pools, some gambling, and eating.

Next up are our port days... Labadee, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We planned something fun for each port - no easy feat with two toddlers in tow!
on Monday, February 11, 2013 | 0 comments
We recently went on a family cruise on the Freedom of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship based out of Port Canaveral. Our party consisted of me, Mr. Nomad, the two Wee Nomads (16 mos and 3) and my mother. My husband's parents also joined us, but they stayed in a separate cabin. We chose a Western Caribbean itinerary, which visited Labadee, Haiti (private beach), Falmouth, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico. The only port I'd visited prior was Jamaica way back in 2000. We have focused our island traveling on the Eastern and Southern Caribbean. I was pleasantly surprised by two of our ports, underwhelmed by two others. But you'll just have to wait for that detail!

This will mostly be a picture based review, due to heavy work schedule and small boys that requires lots of attention. We originally booked a regular aft balcony and an inside for our group of five (our family of four plus my mom). Nine days before sailing Royal Caribbean called and asked if we'd like to upgrade to a Royal Family Suite. Yes please! It was Room 8714 on the back (aft) of the ship, and it was nice and big for five of us:

 Master bedroom with porthole. Looked out onto balcony. The door led to the hallway and living area.

 Master bath with tub. What gives with the skimpy shower curtains, RCI?

 Inside bedroom, on the left as you enter the suite hallway. There are two pullman "bunk" beds in the ceiling that can be pulled down for more people.

Living Room.

 Another shot of master.

The balcony!


The view looking up. Not very private but we never noticed all that many people, unless we were coming into or leaving port.

This was a free upgrade, so I really have no complaints. Had I paid for this suite, there are a handful of things I would have liked to see done differently:

1. There is a lack of drawers in this cabin. One less refrigerator (there were 3!) and one more dresser would have been nice.

2. The shower curtain was way narrow for the opening in the master. I mean, it's an extra five inches for plastic! Some people pay $10K for these cabins and to have water all over the floor is unacceptable when the solution is so simple.

Overall I liked the cabin and would book it again. I do think I prefer the side balcony to the aft (this is my second aft, the other was on the Celebrity Summit in 2011).

More pictures of ports to come later!
on Saturday, September 22, 2012 | 0 comments
Here are a few photos from my visit to Philadelphia last weekend. I went by myself, to visit a good friend who is expecting a couple of babies very soon! Yay twinsies! Anyway, her house is undergoing renovations, so we had to stay in a hotel. Darn. She chose the Hilton Inn at Penn right on the Penn campus. We had glorious weather, as I believe the pictures show.

 View from our hotel room, Inn at Penn

Our room, Inn at Penn. Loved this place! 

Our orangeade and lemonade, A La Maison, Ardmore, PA 

Lunch is served! 

View towards Wharton (that ugly round brick one) 

A copy of the famous artwork, on the Penn Campus 


Again with the beauty. Everywhere on this campus 

Sansom Street, a part that is really nice

on Monday, September 10, 2012 | 0 comments
I wonder if the 15 people who read this blog missed me last week? We spent a family week on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It was great fun. I'll definitely post more later, but here are a few shots of our beautiful week.

Back to reality today!

on Friday, August 31, 2012 | 0 comments
This will be my temporary home:

My days will be spent riding bikes, playing on the beach, yoga-ing, and frolicking with the young 'uns.

It's going to be great.
on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 | 0 comments
On my way to the car this morning, I saw that our cat vomited in the stroller. The $750 Baby Jogger City Select stroller. Penance for such extravagance?

Nevertheless, a cat may die today.

And, the other night? I sat in pee. My child's pee, which he had carelessly spilled on the seat and floor as he attempted to empty his child's potty into the big toilet. Mr. Nomad saw the spillage, but in his words, "it was chaos" as the baby was attempting to crawl through said pee. Mr. Nomad conveniently forgot to clean it up, and I ended up with pee on my legs.