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FreshCruiser blog features tips, news and insight to make the most out of a family vacation without sacrificing luxury & a healthy lifestyle. Focus on fun, active, & healthy travel. Enjoy!

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Welcome to FreshCruiser.com

Enjoy all the tips, news, insight, and advice on luxury family travel that highlights fun, active, and healthy vacations. Explore how to make the most out of your family vacation without sacrificing luxury.

FreshCruiser.com opens readers’ eyes to new adventures and calms any fears of traveling with children. With a special focus on family cruising, the website includes tips to staying active, eating well, and taking advantage of all the opportunities while on a family vacation.

Wednesday
Jun142017

Headed to Hawaii with your kids? Make room for these must have items in your suitcase

Tips on what to pack when traveling to Hawaii or an island vacation with your kids.

Wailea, MauiReady to leave for Hawaii? At this point, you’ve packed bathing suits, shorts, shirts, hats, and tons of sunscreen. Now it’s time to take a step back and find some space for the less obvious must-haves for your trip. 

Big Beach Bag

Throw in a big beach bag, you’ll be glad you did. It’s great for holding your sand toys, snacks, sunscreen, goggles, water, etc. After prepping it the first day of your vacation, you will have all the items you need already in there and can get out of the room quickly. Also, you don’t have to deal with your kids carrying their sand buckets and complaining that it is “too heavy”.

Pool & Beach Toys

It’s essential to have sand and pool toys while in Hawaii. You will be spending most of your time in one of those spots, so buy a few new toys to play with.

For the pool, depending on your children’s swimming abilities bring a mixture of floating toys (bath toys) and dive toys. Of course, buy sand buckets and shovels for the beach. You can stock up on these items at your local dollar store.  

The rule for my kids with all toys is if you bring it to the pool or the beach those items are to be shared. It not only encourages sharing but is an easy way to make new friends. When your vacation is over, there’s no reason to drag them home with you.  Find a family to and have your kids give them the toys, demonstrating kindness to others.

Inflatable Raft

Who doesn’t love floating? An inflatable raft provides hours of fun for all ages.

It’s easy to bring as they are folded up small so it won’t take up much room in your suitcase but you’ll be glad you packed it when you arrive. 

Zip Lock Bags

Treasure Hunting in Wailea, MauiBe prepared by packing a box of Ziplock Bags.  You’ll find yourself glad you have them to reach for throughout the day.

  • Kids love to snack. Easily bring snacks with you to the pool or the beach without having to drag the whole bag. Your kids won’t fight over the bag as they have their own bag.  
  • Protect your cell phone or camera while at the beach
  • Sunscreen goes in a bag in case it opens up and so it doesn’t get covered in sand
  • Wet bathing suits
  • Put the treasures or seashells your children collect
  • Ticket stubs go in one so they are together and ready for scrapbooking. Read the "Top family travel ideas to capture and save memories" article for more tips on easy scrapbooking.

Maui Travels

We recently got back from 8 nights in Wailea on the island of Maui with my 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. It was our third time traveling to Maui as a family. We spent our days going between the beach and the pool. Every day was a fun and new adventure that we didn’t want to end.

What less-obvious items do you pack for a beach or pool vacation?

Happy Packing!

FreshCruiser Tip:  Stay away from “we’ll just buy it there” phrase. Try to bring as much as possible so you don’t waste previous vacation hours shopping. 

Wednesday
May242017

Capture the Spirit of Aloha at the Te Au Moana Luau in Maui

When on vacation with family, we find ourselves in a constant state of attempting to find that perfect blend of family fun while somehow finding ways to expose the little ones to the local vibe and culture of the destination.

While in Hawaii, the children naturally gravitate to the exciting pools, the beautiful beaches, and the mouth-watering shave ice.  But, how can you find an activity that will be enjoyed by everyone big and small alike that allows your family to surround yourself in the true “Spirit of Aloha?”

The luau has been a Hawaiian custom going back many generations.  It is, in my opinion, the quintessential Hawaiian celebration that is a MUST do activity while in Hawaii.  Sure, the luau is touristy.  Sure, it may even be a bit cheesy at times.  But, in the end, there is no better way to celebrate your family togetherness in a setting that will leave you and your children knowing that you are on the beautiful islands of Hawaii.

I have enjoyed being part of many Hawaiian luaus spread across multiple islands.  No two luau’s are the same – they all have their own character and flavor.  Most recently, my family and I took part in the Te Au Moana Luau on the island of Maui.

The setting of the Te Au Moana Luau truly was spectacular.  Set on the grounds of the newly renovated Wailea Beach Resort - Marriott, just a short walk from the Grand Wailea, Four Seasons, and Andaz properties, the Luau green is set perfectly within the gorgeous palm trees and tiki torches overlooking the sparkling water of the Pacific Ocean.

Upon check-in, all guests are greeted with a Hawaiian flower Lei and then shown to their seat.  Before dinner is served, there are different stations allowing the guests to participate in local Hawaiian customs.  My kids absolutely loved this part as they were able to participate in arts and crafts, get a temporary Hawaiian style tattoo, and flowers pinned to their hair.

It was then time to remove the pig (or piggy as my kids like to call it) from the pit. I thought that my kids would have been a little uneasy watching this part, but, to my surprise, they were intrigued by it! 

After our table was called, we made our way to the buffet.  We found the food to be delicious.  The salad with papaya seed dressing, seafood, poultry, and of course the traditional pork and poi along with many other selections were a big hit.  My 4 year-old went back up to refill his plate with even more pork and poi!  He must have some Hawaiian DNA in there…

Performances

As the sun set below the Pacific casting the most gorgeous Hawaiian sunset across the sky, the performers in their spectacular traditional attire danced, sang, and of course, Hula’d across the stage, leaving the audience, especially my kids with a permanent smile from ear to ear.  The host did a perfect job in extending the local warmth to everyone by telling stories of the past and by explaining the how the local traditions are seen through the various performances.  

One of the highlights of the luau for me was watching both my kids stand up and hula along with the show – they were captivated by the performers.  Accompanying the dancers and singers was a live band playing traditional Hawaiian music and melodies. 

As darkness fell over the luau grounds, the fire dancers left my children in awe as they spun and threw their torches in the air.  When the show wrapped up, my family all new exactly where we were – we were on vacation in beautiful Hawaii.

The Te Au Moana Luau truly is a wonderful way to experience the warmth and beauty of the Hawaiian culture in a way that will keep your entire family happily engaged making it a can’t miss event while on your vacation in Maui.

FreshCruiser Tips for the Te Au Moana Luau

  • Plan to see the luau towards the beginning of your vacation.  There is no better way to kick off your trip. 
  • Book early, before you leave on your vacation – the luau will often sell out.  Keep in mind, the luau is only 4 times each week, so plan accordingly.
  • Arrive a little early to get in line. The seats are first come first serve.  After checking in, you are escorted to the best available open seat.
  • This luau has a 4:30pm start time, which works well for families with younger kids.
Monday
Mar272017

Review of North Star on Royal Caribbean Cruises

I do research on every ship we are considering to find out if the amenities, cruise size, and activities are for my family before we book. I have to admit, when I came across the North Star on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, it wasn’t on the top of my list. It would be a $40 per person charge since we were sailing during the Ovation of the Seas China season. The price seemed high compared to all the included activities such as the rock climbing wall, bumper cars, roller skating, and Splashaway Bay.

I was wrong.

It was one of my favorite activities I did while cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas. I was able to literally experience a birds-eye-view of the ship.

Your journey starts by entering the capsule. The glass-windowed capsule has 360 degree views. The capsule moves slowly throughout the approximately 12-minute trip.

As North Star’s arm moved over to the port of the ship, you are suspended over the ship, looking back at all the cabins and upper decks.

Next, the arm extends upwards to an 80-degree angle and you are now over 300 feet above sea level. As you look down to the ship, you feel as though you are “soaring” and almost spying on the fun below.

A North Star Date  – Left the kids behind

On a sea day, my husband and I dropped the kids off at the Adventure Ocean and had an afternoon date since my toddlers were unable to go on the North Star due to height requirements. Leaving the kids behind, allowed us to truly take in the vast height and remarkable views. There was only one other couple in the pod with us, which made the experience more romantic and all around enjoyable.

I highly recommend the experience.

About North Star

Below are a few North Star Facts (Source: Royal Caribbean)

  • Guinness World Record holder for being the “Highest Viewing Deck on a Cruise Ship”
  • Available on three Royal Caribbean ships: Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, and Anthem of the Seas.
  • 14 guests including room for one wheelchair, plus one Operator
  • Complimentary on all sailings (Except for Ovation of the Seas sailings during its China season)
  • Open while at sea and in port
  • Air conditioning and heat available in the pod
  • No limit to the amount of times a guest can experience North Star
  • Premium packages available

 

FreshCruiser Tip: It will be the most crowded at the beginning of the cruise. Plan to go on North Star a few days later to escape the crowds.

Thursday
Feb232017

Photo Tour & Review of the Kids’ areas on Ovation of the Seas

A photo tour of the kids’ areas on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas

What is there to do onboard the Ovation of the Seas with Kids?

Ovation of the Seas. Picture taken from North Star attraction.We spent 8 days with our two toddlers on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class Ship, Ovation of the Seas in Asia. The ship was child-friendly with many spots throughout the ship specifically for toddlers and kids. The 8-day itinerary included the following ports: Kochi, Japan, Miyazaki, Japan, and Busan, Korea.

Adventure Ocean – Youth Club

My daughter was a Royal Tot (ages 18- 36 months) and my son was an Aquanaut (ages 3-5 years).

My son kept asking us if he could go to Adventure Ocean. On other ships that we have been on, we’d have to encourage him to go each time. The activities were well planned and when I would come to pick him up, he’d say, “Mommy, can you come back after we finish this game?” There is no better compliment than that.

There was a small hourly fee for my younger daughter to be dropped off at the Royal Tots Nursery.  It was the first time we ever left her with someone that wasn’t family. There were never any tears or sadness when we dropped her off. She enjoyed the attention from the staff and exploring all the new toys. 

I wish there was enough staff to have Adventure Ocean open all day as many times my son wanted to go, it was closed. For instance, it was closed mid-day for a few hours and from 5pm to 7pm every night.

Splashaway Bay - Waterpark for kids

Splashaway Bay has two waterslides, a splash pad area, and a whirlpool pool. The slides offer endless fun and are manageable for kids to go on their own. Splashaway Bay Kids' WaterparkUnfortunately your child must be a minimum of 42"inches tall to ride the slides.  I felt this was strict as the slides are very basic and appeal to a younger child.

Splashaway Bay Kids' Waterpark

Since it can get cool on deck and the water isn’t heated, I’d recommend bringing a wetsuit for your child.

Swimming Pools

 

There are indoor and outdoor pools on the Ovation of the Seas including an adult-only pool at the bow of the ship. My son would jump in and swim to the other side. He loved going into the indoor pool after breakfast during sea days. There were complimentary life jackets for children who needed one. Children must be potty trained to use the pools, no diapers or swim diapers are allowed. 

Seaplex

Seaplex

Seaplex is a large indoor space which offers activities such as bumper cars, roller skating, and basketball. During the roller skating session, my son and I laced up the borrowed skates and took a spin around the rink. It was my son’s first time on roller skates and I hadn’t been on them in over 15 years. The opportunity to roller skate is why I love cruising so much. It got my son out of his comfort zone, tried something new, and we both had fun doing it together. There was no additional charge.

RipCord by iFLY®

My 3 year-old son and I exhibited our adventurous spirit and booked a reservation for RipCord by iFLY®, “the first skydiving experience at sea.” When my son’s two minutes were up, he asked to go again!  It was a special moment to do something like this with my son.  Cruising offers many opportunities to make lifetime memories.

Indoor Play area

“Welcome to Play” reads the sign as you enter the parent-supervised indoor play area on the ship. There are slides, toys, and all sorts of things to play with inside the indoor playground. It offers an alternative to being dropped off at Adventure Ocean. Smaller children can explore and play while with their parents.

Stateroom Toys

As part of the Royal Tots program, we checked-out a bag of toys to play in the room. Each bag has a theme from transportation to building. Every few days we would return one bag and pick up a new one. It provided our kids with something new to play with as we got ready every morning. It also was a good exercise in borrowing and sharing toys.

Ship-Wide - Character Photo Opportunities

My son giving Po (Kung Fu Panda) a hug

The DreamWorks characters were also sailing on the Ovation of the Seas with us!My son was in awe while meeting the characters during their daily appearances throughout the ship. The characters typically came out and performed a 1-2 minute dance and then posed for pictures.

Adventure Ocean Dance Party with Dreamworks CharactersOn our final day at sea, there was an Adventure Ocean dance party with the DreamWorks characters which was definitely a highlight of the cruise.

Additional Adventures for Kids

The activities for kids on the Ovation of the Seas are endless. Although my toddlers were not tall enough to experience all of them, the additional activities include: North Star observation capsule, FlowRider® surf simulator, and a 30-foot high Rock Climbing Wall. Even though my kids were too short, it will give them something to look forward to trying on future sailings.

We always felt there were many activities to pick from during our 8-day cruise on the Ovation of the Seas. The ship was truly designed where there are spaces for kids of all ages.

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Monday
Feb062017

Travel Tips for visiting Hong Kong with Toddlers

Heading to Hong Kong with your toddlers? Here’s my survival guide including tips on how to survive jet lag and what to expect when visiting Hong Kong with kids.

Plan Day 1: Stay awake

Our flight left Los Angeles at 10:30pm and arrived in Hong Kong at 5am local time. The flight time was approximately 15 hours. We made it to Hong Kong and had a full day ahead of us.

Before you leave, contact the hotel to tell them your arrival time so they can try to have your room ready. After a long flight, everyone will feel better after a shower and new clothes. Depending on how much you and your kids slept on the flight, it can be a difficult day, don’t plan to visit the big sights. Your main focus should be to get settled and try to stay up until after dinner.

If your children take a nap, don’t let them sleep more than a few hours as their internal clock is saying that it’s night time, not nap time.

Be prepared to get up early

It may take a few days to adjust to the local time.  If your kids are up at 4am, you will be as well. It’s important to be flexible. When deciding on a hotel, book one that includes breakfast or has easy breakfast options for the family.

Enjoying breakfast in the hotel is a stress-free way to start the day. If the restaurant is not opened yet, I recommend ordering room service for breakfast and going sightseeing early. I love exploring a city before anyone else is out and about –there’s a magical feeling when you have it all to yourselves.  

Try the local food

An important part of experiencing a different culture while traveling is eating at local restaurants. In Hong Kong, staff was usually friendly and helpful when we ordered. If your kids are picky eaters, order white rice or ask for a dish without the sauce (think fried chicken). Even if your children aren’t eating the local food, you still get to enjoy it and they are experiencing the local restaurant culture.

Hello Kitty CafeMy husband and I love dim sum (dumplings). We decided to the Hello Kitty Cafe for lunch one afternoon which is known for its dim sum shaped like Hello Kitty. My son loved the shrimp dumplings so much we had to order more.

What to Do

Getting around Hong Kong is extremely easy. The locals are helpful and friendly when you ask for help. Toddlers love to take different modes of transportation and Hong Kong has it all.

While visiting, we went on the tram, bus, trolley, ferry, taxi, gondola, observation wheel and a cable car.  My children had so much fun; I don’t think they could pick a favorite. Read my blog post, “Top 5 things do to in Hong Kong with kids” for more things to do in Hong Kong with your children.

The best way to enjoy your time in Hong Kong with toddlers is to be flexible and enjoy the ups and downs. Safe travels!

Tuesday
Jan102017

Top Mobile Apps to download before traveling to Hong Kong

Traveling to Hong Kong? Make sure you are prepared and download these top apps to your phone before leaving.

 My Hong Kong Guide An all-in-one app for visiting Hong Kong. It provides you with all the information you’ll need while visiting. If you’re going to download only one city guide app, download this one.

 

Hong Kong Insider’s Guide The app gives attraction recommendations from locals and information about off-the-beaten-path places. Find information about local neighborhoods to explore.

 

XE Currency This offline currency calculator will put you at ease as there is no need to memorize currency exchange rates.

 

Google Translate Download and save the languages you plan on using before you leave and you’ll be able to use this translation tool even without Wi-Fi.  The app allows you to take a picture of the unknown text for instant translation.

 

TripAdvisor When planning a trip, it is useful to read reviews from fellow travelers. Download the TripAdvisor app, and then search for Hong Kong in the “Destination Guides” section. You’ll be able to download all the information to your phone before you leave. 

 

TouchNote Use this app to send photo postcards. It's a personal way to send a postcard and so much easier than tracking down postcards and stamps while traveling. Simply upload the picture to TouchNote app, select the recipients, add a note and click send.

Wednesday
Jan042017

Top 5 things to do in Hong Kong with Kids

Thinking of where to go on your next family trip? It’s time to take the leap and explore Asia. We recently took our 1 ½ year old and 3 ½ year old on a trip to Hong Kong. The city offers many exciting toddler-friendly things to do.

Peak Tram

The Peak Tram is a must-do when visiting Hong Kong. All ages will enjoy it. My children couldn’t stop giggling as the tram climbed almost vertically up to the top of the Peak. Once we arrived at the Peak, the view was spectacular. I felt as though I was suspended in the sky, viewing the city from above. It is easy to spend a few hours at the top. There is a walking path to explore, shopping, and many kid-friendly options of places to eat.

What to know: Get in line for the tram before dusk to reach the top as the sun goes down and stay to enjoy the breathtaking views of the city lights. The lines may be long to get back down from the Peak, anticipate this and get in line before your children reach their meltdown point.  

The Hong Kong Observation Wheel

The Hong Kong Observation Wheel, opened in 2014, is 60 meters-high is situated right next to the harbor. I have to admit it looks small compared to the surrounding buildings however, my children loved every second. They could have spent hours in the large glass gondola going around and around. My kids excitedly pointed out the boats going in and out of Victoria Harbour.

What to know:  A ride on the Observation Wheel is feasible during the day or at night. We went midday and there was no wait to board a gondola. I think that I’d prefer the nighttime city views, however I’d recommend it during the day for families. In the daylight, my kids were easily able to grasp the hustle and bustle below.  

Lantau Island & Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

A visit to Lantau Island consists of visiting Ngong Ping Village, taking the aerial tramway (Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car), and climbing up the steps to the Tian Tan Buddha (also known as the Big Buddha). Visitors take the metro to Tung Chung, which is on the north coast of Lantau, and then board the cable car to Ngong Ping Village.

While the walk up the 268 steps to the Big Buddha looks imposing, it is a fun adventure to hike to the top with kids.  We found it to be a great challenge for our kids where they were rewarded with beautiful panoramic views of the islands and sea below once they made it to the top!

What to know: Purchase tickets for the glass-bottom Crystal Cabin. My kids loved laying on the floor as they soared over the forest below.  The ride lasts about 25 minutes, and the views are spectacular.  

The line was over an hour long to take the Cable Car to Ngong Ping Village (Big Buddha). We decided to hire a taxi to take us there and took the Ngong Ping Cable Car back to Tung Chung. There was no line to board the cable car.

Please note that according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the “Ngong Ping Cable Car service will be suspended from January to June 2017 for a rope replacement project.” If you are visiting during this time, check the Ngong Ping 360 website for the exact dates of the closure. 

Star Ferry from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon

The Star Ferry boats take passengers from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and back. The 10 minute inexpensive ride across Victoria Harbor is attention-grabbing for children as you pass other boats and see the big buildings of Kowloon getting closer and closer. 

We ferried from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon. Upon our arrival, we walked around Kowloon before taking it back to Hong Kong Island. A ferry leaves every few minutes which makes it an extremely easy activity to do with kids.

What to know: The ferry terminal and Observation Wheel are located right next to each other, plan to do both while in the area.

Hong Kong Tramways

The iconic double decker trams are fun to ride as they “ding ding” through the streets. The tramway has been in service for over 110 years, running westbound and eastbound along Hong Kong Island. It is one of the most inexpensive modes of transportation in Hong Kong. Your children will be delighted to sit in the upper deck and watch all the excitement of the city below.

What to know: Take the trams during non-commuting hours or on a weekend in order to have fewer crowds and increase your chances of getting a seat. The trams are small, plan ahead and leave your stroller at the hotel. Enter the tram from the back and exit at the front. You pay as you exit the tram and must have exact change.

Monday
Jul182016

Top family travel ideas to capture and save memories

Taking a family vacation this summer? Check out these fun ideas to capture and save memories.

Summer vacation is here and it’s time to take off on a family vacation. This summer try to resist the urge to video and photograph every second. Of course, I want to capture every cute and crazy moment including my son’s little tantrums when he doesn’t get to press the hotel elevator button.

However, being present in the moment is so much more important. Follow these easy to do ideas for preserving a vacation keepsake while having fun.

Quotes & Moments

Keep an e-mail draft of the funny quotes, new words or memories from the trip. It is a way to remember the trip that pictures can’t. If you do a photo book of the trip, add a page and entitle it “Memorable quotes and moments”. Paste the text to it. You never know what is going to come out of your children’s mouths, which is fun and exciting. For instance, in Hawaii my son said things like, “I want to float away.” “We have a problem” and he got mad at his grandma because she went down the slide faster than him. It’s easy to forget. Once the kids are all tucked in, take a second to write it down.

Say Cheese!

Mark your child or children’s growth by taking a picture of them on the hotel room bed every vacation. We started this when my son was 3 months old. It was his first time staying in a hotel room. We placed him on the bed and took a picture. It reminds me of that moment that you just plop yourself on the bed after a long day of travel and your vacation has truly started.  We now do this with both children on the bed and it’s a cute way to show their growth from trip to trip.

Scrapbook it, the easy way

Bring home the used tickets and hotel room keys from the trip. I have a scrapbook for each child. The scrapbook has self-adhesive pages, which means it has a sticky backing. I simply peel back the transparent overlay, place the tickets, smooth it and I’m done. The keepsake is a special reminder of the places we have visited. It does not require a time commitment like other types of scrapbooking.

Ask questions

It is magical to watch your children’s expressions as you visit new places.  When you have downtime, either driving or at the airport ask your children questions about the trip. The questions are fun and you may be surprised by some of their responses. My nephew would answer yes to every question.

After a trip together, I asked him yes or no questions. It marks that moment in time perfectly, as you guessed it, his answer was “yes” every time. You can also add these to the photo book or save as a memory.  

Vacations can be packed with non-stop stimulation. It is important to take a moment and revisit the trip for them.