Taking a cruise with a family

It is no secret that Larry and I love going on cruise ships. We have been on half a dozen both with kids, with our adult children and by ourselves. My main reason for liking cruises is the fact that Larry can unplug from work 100%. We can actually relax and pick and choose the activities that we want to do.

And everything on the ship that we do is covered in the cost. I love that there is an app now available (for free) that has every activity on the ship and you can tell which ones that you would like to do. It will beep a reminder on your phone (that is in airplane mode). You can also add for $5 extra per person a texting feature. We did this with the 2 older kids because once we were on the ship, they were on their own with activities.

What is there to do as a family?

So much of the ship is included in the price.

Pools, Spas, and Buffet

Each of the cruise ships has pools and jacuzzis on the Lido deck. My kids spent many hours on the deck in the pool. There is also a water slide on the back of the ship that is a floor above the Lido Deck

There is also an ongoing buffet on the Lido deck so there is no shortage of food. Part of the cost of the cruise is iced tea and lemonade. You can upgrade to have unlimited soda for you and the kids. But, we just drank iced tea. The buffet is 100% included in the price. If you don’t buy the soda pass, a glass of soda is $3 or so.

Formal Restaurant

– There are several restaurants on board. One of them is included in the price of your ship. I LOVE going to that restaurant for dinner. And this was the only thing that I required that the kids do with us ON the ship. So every evening, we met at 5:45 pm (That is the time that the restaurant opened.)The menu includes 8 or so appetizers/salads, entrees and desserts. You are not limited to order just one. And our family tends to try many different things. One night there were frog legs and another was alligator fritters. You can bet that we ordered that to share.

Kids area

– Carnival ships have a great kids area. This last cruise, all of my kids were able to check themselves in an out of the kids’ activities (by age). I was thrilled to know that my kids were being well taken care of on the ship and had some fun activities. They have Xboxes, karaoke, arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, etc. Many of the activities for middle and high school kids end at midnight or 1 am. So there is no shortage. For the smaller kids, theirs end at 10 pm, but you can purchase 10 pm until 1 am if you as an adult want to be kid-free for the entire evening. We personally didn’t use this additional feature.

Classes, Trivia and Activities – One of the days, the girls wanted to go to one of the “fun” classes – We learned how to fold the “infamous” towel animals. We took full advantage of these types of activities. There were several Hasbro “game shows” on the ship as well.

Shows and Comedians – Watch the Schedule because some are family-friendly! We love going to music shows on boards. Larry was even chosen to go up on the stage for the Motown show. My 6 foot 8-inch husband singing as one of the Supremes!

Mini golf, ping pong, workout room – Need a cool down time? There is a minigolf on the top of the front of the ship, a workout room, ping-pong, and billiard tables OUTSIDE! There is even a 3 feet tall chess set (Remember that all ships are different – this is for the Carnival Imagination and Inspiration that ports in Long Beach, CA.)

Cost Extra on the Ship:

Sometimes you need a little extra – And you can put a limit on kids’ cards on the ship so they are not charging up a ton of extras.

Build-a-Bear – The bears start at $27 for the doll itself and then you add the clothes which start at $8/piece. This was a special treat and does cost above and beyond on the ship. This was an additional cost, but well worth it as a souvenir.

Art Auction – Because Larry and I don’t normally drink a lot of alcohol, we many times we will attend the art auctions onboard and purchase a piece of art to bring home as a remembrance of our cruise. I have picked up some pretty amazing pieces from Milken, Brodinsky, Le Kinff, Bloom and I have a Thomas Kinkade. So I get to bring home something that will add to my collection and I will be able to enjoy it later on. This cruise we opted to spend the extra money that we had on Build a Bear for the kids instead of the art auction. There is always the next cruise!!

Steak house, Sushi and a Cafe – This is not something that we ever do, but it is available for an extra fee.

Shops on the ship – There are shops on the ship that are open (with duty/tax-free) only when the ship is out to sea. There is a gift shop, jewelry, liquor/tobacco, candy shop, etc.

Casino and Arcade – Again, this is an extra on the ship, but it is available. They also run BINGO tournaments. (If you let your kids go down to the arcade, know that the games can run from $1-$4 a pop. …. Again, I put a limit on my kids’ cards, just to be safe.

Spa – If you are taking one of your teens, The spa has a Mother/daughter and a father/son massage (just like the couples massage) El and I saved up for this (just over $200 for an hour-long massage) The mother-daughter one was WELL WORTH IT! They also have a hairdresser, nail tech and other amenities onboard.

Off of the ship

Port Excursions – If you plan on doing anything in the ports, make sure that you book through the ship… that way if the excursion is running late, the ship will wait for you. In Ensenada, there are port shops that are right off of the ship. I have learned with the kids, that sometimes less is more and we will just get off of the ship for a few minutes or so and back on. The ship will be “dead” and the kids will have no lines on things like the water slide and the pools will be pretty empty.

Catalina Island was a great place to walk around. There is a fun Ice Cream shop right there in the middle of the town of Avalon.

Tips and Tricks

Things to bring: Dramamine, ginger candies and a lanyard for each person. Always bring a sweatshirt and a pair of pants even if you don’t think that you will need it. Better over pack than be cold. Right now kids under 18 do not need a passport, but both parents on the birth certificate must be attending. (Thank goodness Grayson’s birth certificate was updated at adoption.)

Put that limit on your kids’ sign and sail cards (This is also their room keys so they don’t go overboard with extra spending. Lanyards work great so that kids don’t lose their keys.

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