Last week my husband and I took 8 of our children on a 4 day Carnival cruise. To be honest, I prepared for the absolute WORST. Why would I do that?! Well, a few of our children get motion sickness, the baby was teething, I was getting over a sickness, and taking 8 kids (biological or stepchildren) anywhere is a lot of work. I kept my expectations pretty low, ha!
The cruise was out of Long Beach, California and was set to port in Ensenada, Mexico and Catalina Island. I was bracing, hoping this trip would go by quickly but guess what? It turned out to be THE BEST TRIP EVER.
Bon Voyage! Boarding the ship, at first glance, this ship is in need of a renovation. It’s head to toe 1990’s. If you are expecting a modern look you’re in the wrong place, most of Carnival’s ships were built in the late 1990’s and it shows. However, the spa is pretty updated!
What do you do when you get on board?
You explore the ship and EAT!! Who fights or argues when there’s unlimited food?!
PS. You don’t get your luggage till later so pack what you need (swim suit, diapers, jacket) in a backpack.
We walked the decks, signed our children up for the kids programs/childcare, and discovered the different food options.
**Guy Fieri has a burger place onboard and it’s the best burger and French fries you will ever have.
What are the rooms like?!
They are small but do the trick. As you can see we even fit a crib and a stroller. With our family of 10 we needed 3 rooms. The girls had a room (4 girls with 2 sets of bunk beds), boys had a room (again, bunk beds), and the hubby, baby and I shared a room. We had inside cabins so that window is fake, lol. Each room has cable tv and we enjoyed movies each night. My kids really loved Spider-Man: Homecoming.
How would this trip benefit our family?
First let me just say there is no internet…unless you pay for it. Don’t pay for it! Force your family to talk to one another! One of the BEST things we did was meet for dinner every night at fine dining. Everyone had to be there and no ordering from the kids menu! We tried the fun menu items such as fried Alligator, escargot, and rabbit! The children all laughed together, sampled each other’s dinner, and we all got to know one another better. We visited and shared about our day–it was wonderful!
**We did use the Carnival Hub app that is $5 per person for the trip so you can text one another. This comes in handy to find your teenagers!
Enjoying alligator! Yummy!
Someone enjoyed the escargot!
We also took advantage of the fun activities that the ship had to offer. One of them was a “3 Minute Makeover” at the spa. I grabbed my older stepdaughters and went! This is probably not something we would have done at home so this was a great memory made!
What is fun about a cruise besides the food?
It depends on you. We looked at every option the ship offered and tried to fit it all in our schedule. There were scavenger hunts, paper airplane contests, steam room, sauna, library with games, dance party, pool party, karaoke room (ALWAYS PACKED!!), night clubs, casinos, gym, mini-golf (SO FUN!), water slides, hot tubs, shows every night, and more.
Going on a cruise forces you out of your comfort zone and puts you in situations you wouldn’t normally be in. For instance-would your son typically go to a water park with his stepdad? Maybe not, but on a cruise it can happen! And they loved it!
And would you typically stack rocks as a family activity? No. But if you’re in Catalina Island you pull over your golf cart and do yoga poses with your step kids after stacking those rocks. This was one of the best memories and I still giggle about it!
Are you able to have any fun with your spouse while vacationing with your children?
Yes!! The ship offered daycare for ages 2 on up and a club for the teenagers-they all had a blast! Although we brought our baby, and he couldn’t attend the daytime daycare, we were able to have our kids babysit when they were done playing for the day.
Matt and I were able to attend a comedy club, a rock band show, and get as much ice cream and dessert we could enjoy. There is also a walking/running track on the top of the ship you can enjoy and watch the sunset from.
**They do offer a paid daycare for children under two, two times a day but it’s early morning and late evenings. We never needed it. It’s $6.75 and hour plus 15% gratuity.
Fancy Formal Night!! We loved getting dressed up and I had the best Prime Rib of my life.
I also celebrated my 42nd birthday on the ship! They sang to me and brought me a special cake with a candle!
Was the cost worth it?
Yes yes yes.
When planning a vacation for a family–for us it’s a LARGE family–cost is a major concern. With a cruise you pay one fee and it includes it ALL. Daycare, entertainment, food, drink, and fun. So go ahead and order 3 shrimp cocktails and 2 tiramisu’s because it’s included! And throw away that kids menu, kids can have a hotdog at home, try the calamari or steak.
We loved that we didn’t have to worry about the cost of each meal, each activity, each show, etc. It takes away the financial stress so you can just enjoy yourself!
What was the best part?
For our family, the best part was that we were all together, on one ship, for four days. Eating together, doing activities together, and learning to love one another. I enjoyed watching the children all have fun, which always makes mom and dad happy!
Have you ever cruised with your family? What was your experience?