by John Schneider
Taking your family on a cruise is a very fun, entertaining and exciting vacation.
Want to go swimming? Sure. Want an ice cream cone? Sure. Want to go mini-golfing? Sure. Want to select anything off the menu? Sure. Going on a cruise with the family allows Mom and Dad the ability to say “sure” without having to determine the ramifications to the wallet or to ensure that each child is being treated fairly. Almost everything that a child would want to do on a cruise ship (food, ice cream, sporting activities, entertainment, …) is included in the package.
As winter started to hit, our family ran off to Miami to keep the snow and cold at bay for another week. We set sail on the Carnival Glory for 7 days with a couple of stops in the Bahamas as well as stops in the Dominican Republic and Grand Turk. Nothing beats blue turquoise water, your feet on the sand and temperatures in the 80s. This is especially true now, since the actual temperature outside my window is well below zero as I write this article.
My wife and I have cruised many times. I find cruising very relaxing and love not having to think or plan or worry about anything for a week. Worry about food…. Nope, always there. Worry about activities… Nope, there are always many different options (the best being laying in the sun doing nothing but relaxing). Worry about what this is going to cost… Nope, all the food, drinks (except alcohol), and entertainment is included.
On this cruise, as well as many of our past cruises, our 2 girls, Grace (13) and Mya (11), have joined us. The girls started joining us as early as 5 years old and love cruising with us. There are always an endless amount of activities for them to partake in. Here are a few of the highlights the kids really enjoyed:
- Kids Camps – On most ships Carnival offers children multiple aged level kids camps. These camps group kids of similar ages to participate in games, crafts and activities. Over the years, our kids took full advantage of the camps and picked through the 7 day activities schedule to plan their events. There is no additional cost for the camp and parents are free to enjoy their free time doing other activities. Older kids, with parents’ approval, can check in and out of the camp on their own. The younger ones need to have a parent drop off and pick up (all regulated similar to traditional daycare centers). For the really young kids parents get a pager to alert them when they are needed.
- Entertainment – Vegas style live entertainment from the Carnival Playlist Productions team of high-energy singers and dancers is included on most evenings. The girls loved getting seats in the first couple of rows and being awed for the next hour. Mom and Dad also loved going to the comedy shows after the kids went to bed.
- Pool / Waterslide – The kids love the multiple pools and waterslides on the cruise. On this cruise the kids, and yes, Mom and Dad, got to enjoy the two new waterslides recently added to the Carnival Glory. The hot tubs became family relaxation zones.
- Food – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, snacks. The Kids and Parents all get want they want. For our family we ate breakfast at the buffet. Dinner was in the main dining room selecting off the full menu. For lunch everyone ran off to their favorite spot. Mya wants a burger – off to “Guy’s Burger Joint” she goes. Grace (Ok, Mom also) wants tacos – off to “Blue Iguana Cantina” they go. Dad wants a warm deli sandwich so off I go to the “Carnival Deli”.
While the children are enjoying the Kids Camps we love to spend time on the Serenity Deck, a retreat for only the adults to soak up some sun in quiet. Reading and napping in the sun also hits the top of the list along with going to the spa for a quick workout and steam. Since our girls are now at an age where we can leave them alone when they sleep we do take advantage of the later evenings by seeing comedy shows or going to the casino and bars.
The various ports of call allow the whole family to visit new parts of the world to create even more memories. Carnival does a great job of describing the islands we stopped at and offering many different “Fun Ashore” excursions. Each new stop offers opportunities for new adventures. Before leaving for your vacation take some time to research the ports of call you will encounter to see what you are interested in. Our family loves to find a beach to swim, soak in the sun, and relax. On most islands you can find a beach within walking distance or a short cab ride. Both Grand Turk and Amber Cove, D.R. had wonderful pools and beaches just steps from the cruise port that were free for everyone. The Amber Cove port pool was incredible and included waterslides, sport courts and lounge chairs; all for no cost. For a whopping $10 each of the girls zip lined high above the pool complex an unlimited number of times (and Dad ensured it was extremely safe).
Taking your family on a cruise is not as expensive as you might think. While certainly not roomy, a family of 4 has no problem staying in a single cabin. Often cruise lines offer the 3rd and 4th passengers in a cabin great deals, sometimes even free. Depending on the date and location a family of four can enjoy a week-long cruise for roughly $2,000-$2,500 and I have gotten deals a lot closer to $1,500. Flights or driving to the port will add to that figure.
Sure, Mom and Dad love having a break from the kids and cruising alone, but cruising with the kids is also a great time. Many people are surprised we take the kids, but that is because they think it is way too expensive to bring kids along. That is simply not the case. Sure there is some expense, but when compared to a beach resort in Mexico, cruising is almost always cheaper and way more exciting. Check out the Carnival website (https://www.carnival.com/) and see what just might work for you.
Published January 2018