Educating a Clueless Traveler About Cruising

I recently returned from a 5-day cruise to The Bahamas courtesy of the good people at Carnival Cruise Line. I had an absolute blast, but this story began a week before when I dropped off my daughter at school and had a conversation with another dad.

 

Me: “I’m heading to The Bahamas next week.”

The dad: “Nice! Are you flying into Nassau?”

Me: “No, I’m actually flying into Jacksonville. It’s a cruise to Bahamas.”

The dad: “Dude, why? Cruises are lame.”

 

At that point, I had to educate this clueless guy about the awesomeness of cruising.

 

#1: Hotels and getting around

OK, let’s use my family as an example. Now let’s say we flew into Nassau for a vacation in The Bahamas. We’d have to secure a hotel and get a rental car (with car seats). On a cruise, you don’t have to worry about any of that. Simply fly to the port, take a shuttle to the ship, and off you go. Not to mention, your ship is the hotel!

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#2: The food situation

If your kids are like mine, they’ll do one of two things at mealtime: 1) We’ll order something and they’ll decide after one bite that it’s not worth eating. Or 2) They’ll eat everything and within 15 minutes of leaving the restaurant, they’ll decide they’re hungry again.

How would we handle that if we flew into Nassau? We’d end up spending a ton of money all while dealing with grumpy kids. Nobody wins. On the beautiful Carnival Elation, there was a ton of food options available 24/7 — most of which is included in the fare. So if you have hungry kids or picky kids, they have you completely covered.

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#3: A break from the kids?

Again, let’s say I flew into Nassau. What if I wanted to enjoy some adult fun without the kids around? Would I just knock on hotel doors and hope that someone would take care of my adorable children? Of course not. On a cruise, that’s not a problem. Carnival has Camp Ocean which is built-in childcare for kiddos between 2-11. Simply drop them off, and they can enjoy age-specific activities like art, games, movies, etc. while grownups can enjoy some “me time.”

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#4: Bonding with fellow vacationers

If I stayed at a hotel in Nassau, would it be realistic for me to become friends with the people in the room next me? Probably not. But cruising is different. A ship is like a giant floating city, and we’re all residents of it. For that short time we’re on board, we see the same people during meals, during shows, and at the pool. We get to know them, their families, their home life, etc. — and before you know it, we’ve made new friends. Cruises have the unique ability to bring people from all walks of life together, and nobody does it better than Carnival.

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So after I laid those points out to my fellow dad, he realized the error in his ways and apologized for his ignorance. He even said that he may consider a short cruise this summer. Cruising is truly the best way to enjoy a vacation, and I’ll do my part to share my feelings with anyone who will listen.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.

 

Why Carnival’s Customer Service Makes Me a Cruiser

Thanks to the great people at Carnival, I was able to enjoy a nice 5-day cruise to The Bahamas on the beautiful Carnival Elation. As most people know about Carnival, the food is great and the entertainment is top notch, but there’s something else that makes Carnival my favorite vacation destination.

You’re not going to find better customer service anywhere. The great Maya Angelou was once quoted as saying, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That is 100% true. Everyone from the people who cleaned our rooms to the ones who prepared our meals were always so professional, kind, and courteous.

Something as simple as knowing my name goes a ridiculously long way with me. My name isn’t the easiest in the world to pronounce, but they greeted me with the correct pronunciation every time. People I’ve known for years aren’t even able to do that.

When I spoke to Francis the Hotel Director, he explained it all to me.

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“I’m responsible for everything a customer sees while on the ship,” he said. “Because of that, I work extra hard to ensure every passenger has the time of their lives while onboard. And that means paying extra attention to the small details.” You know what? His team is great at their jobs.

Whether it’s leaving a frog towel animal in my room.

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Or filling up my water glass at dinner before I even get the chance to ask. The examples are endless. But that’s the beauty of Carnival — they treat everyone on the ship as if they’re royalty. As a grown man, I can’t remember much about the specifics of my childhood vacations, but I certainly remember how good I felt during my favorite ones. I have all of the confidence in the world that my two young daughters will grow up to tell their kids about how amazing their Carnival cruises were.

But again, the tasty food, the twisty waterslides, and the great entertainment would mean very little if we weren’t treated well. Carnival understands that’s the main thing, and that’s why they are my #1 destination for vacations.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.

16 Things I Did During My Winter Break

As many of you know, each year I disconnect from social medial for the final two weeks of December to spend time with my family. Well, I’m back now — and I realized that a lot of things can happen in two weeks. Here are 16 of them.

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My Carnival Elation Vacation in 10 Selfies

This November, the good folks at Carnival invited me and my parents on a 5-day cruise to The Bahamas on the beautiful (and newly renovated) Carnival Elation. I took my parents with me and since I was the third wheel on this vacation, I spent a decent amount of alone time on the trip. That was totally fine with me — because since I have two young daughters at home, “alone time” isn’t a phrase that I’m all that familiar with.

So if you’ll allow me to do so, check out my vacation in 10 selfies. Because when you’re alone, that’s how you get photos.

#1: Welcome to Carnival Elation

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This ship is great. Not too big, not too small. From the moment I got onboard, I was ready to check out what it had to offer.

#2: BlueIguana Cantina

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This little spot was recently added to the ship, and I was here EVERY day to grab one of their amazing breakfast burritos. You haven’t truly lived until you tried one of those. Not pictured is Guy’s Burger Joint which had some of the tastiest burgers you’ll find. No matter what you’re into, Carnival has great food for even the pickiest eaters.

#3: Camp Ocean

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I left my little ones at home with my wife because we didn’t want to take them out of school, but my daughters spent a lot of time at Camp Ocean on our previous cruises. It’s a great option for kids to play with others and for parents to enjoy some much-needed adult time. Great for kids aged 2-11.

#4: WaterWorks

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Speaking of areas that my kids spent a lot of time in, the WaterWorks play area was by far their favorite on previous cruises. Carnival Elation had a wonderful version as well, and I was able to snap a photo before it opened. Needless to say, the kiddos on the ship had a blast here.

#5: The Fun Shops

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If you’ve followed me for a while you probably know that I have a thing for Swedish Fish. Well, if you have a sweet tooth like I have, Cherry On Top is the place for you. I spent a lot of time here getting my fix of my favorite treats.

#6: The Spa

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Sometimes a dad just needs some time to unwind and that’s exactly what I did. I enjoyed a 90-minute Swedish massage (apparently I like all Swedish things), and it was just what the doctor ordered to relieve my stress. The people here are knowledgeable, friendly, and really good at their jobs — but that can be said for all Carnival employees.

#7: The towel animals

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One of the things that makes Carnival so unique are the various towel animals that can be found in your room. It’s no secret that I’m deathly afraid of frogs, and the crew and I had a great laugh when they put one in my room (a towel frog, that is — not a real one). I kept one eye on him all night to ensure he wouldn’t jump on me.

#8: The leadership team

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I had the pleasure of spending a little bit of time with Francis, the Hotel Director, and Irina, the Guest Services Manager. These two are responsible for everything a guest sees during their vacation (food, entertainment, housekeeping, etc.). They have a TON of responsibility, but they do an amazing job. I know that’s true because Carnival provides some of the most amazing customer service I’ve seen in any industry. I had to donate a copy of my new book to the ship as a token of my appreciation.

#9: The Cruise Director

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I also had the pleasure of meeting our Cruise Director, Kevin. He’s witty, funny, and extremely entertaining. This guy set the stage for everyone to kick back and enjoy themselves, and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to lead the charge. Great job, my man — you made everything amazing.

#10: My parents

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Last, but definitely not least — I loved the quality time I was able to spend with my mom and dad. I love them more than anything, and it’s a pleasure to take care of them after all they’ve done for me.

Big thanks to the Carnival team for creating memories that will last for a lifetime.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.

Don’t Hesitate and Come Visit The Caribbean

This November, the good folks at Carnival invited me and my parents on a 5-day cruise to The Bahamas on the beautiful (and newly renovated) Carnival Elation. My wife stayed home to be with the kids so they wouldn’t miss any school and I was able to enjoy some much-needed quality time with my parents. For those of you who don’t know, I live in California and my parents live in Massachusetts. Needless to say, I don’t get to see them in person very often, and I take every opportunity I can to be with them.

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But other than hanging out with the Grandparents Doin’ Work, I was able to see firsthand what life is like in The Bahamas after hurricanes and tropical storms hit the Caribbean earlier this year. There was a significant amount of damage that took place on the island, but months after the storm cleared, I noticed a few things.

First off, The Bahamas are recovering nicely. Check out how beautiful the beaches of Half Moon Cay looked while we were there.

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People were smiling, happy, and enjoying the beauty of what Half Moon Cay had to offer. Including yours truly.

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Then we visited Nassau, and it did not disappoint. Check out my Facebook live video when I went shopping for dresses for my daughters.

 

**(I’ll embed the video here)

 

One thing I’ll say is the people in Nassau love when tourists visit the island. Not just for economic reasons, but because as one local woman told me, “It gives us faith that everything is going to be OK.” I believe that, because no matter where I went, people were incredibly friendly and kind.

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I can’t stress this enough. If you are hesitant about traveling to the Caribbean due to the storms in 2017, come visit. The locals want more tourism and few places are greater to visit on the planet than The Bahamas.

Speaking of great, I have to give major props to Carnival. Yes, Carnival Elation is beautiful (stay tuned for a future post about that), but you won’t find better customer service anywhere in the cruising industry. They made the trip to The Bahamas that much better from how well they took care of me and my parents.

Come visit The Bahamas on a Carnival cruise. You won’t be sorry!

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This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.

I Officially Achieved “Cool Dad” Status

I’ve been at this fatherhood thing for almost seven years, and depending on the day, sometimes my kids really admire me — other times, they don’t want to be seen with me (this is the case for any public dance party I decide to start). However, I finally found something that made me the most popular dad on my block.

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Girls Fear Failure. Let’s Fix That.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you probably know that I’m a proud and loud feminist. And no, that’s not only because I’m raising two tiny female humans. It’s because I want to live in a world where everyone has equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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The one thing needed for an amazing family vacation

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Holiday Inn. The opinions and text are all mine.

OK, so there are a probably a hundred things that contribute to an awesome family vacation, but hear me out on this. A few days ago, my family went on a trip to Mazatlan courtesy of the good folks at Holiday Inn hotels and we had the time of our lives.

First off, I have to talk about our room. I travel a lot and I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels, but I can confidently state that I haven’t stayed in one as nice as the Holiday Inn resort in Mazatlan.

Our room had a separate space for the kids with bunk beds, a TV, and a door! A DOOR! Meaning they can sleep and/or entertain themselves without me having to hear them or see them. I mean, we all need a little break from our children at times, right? The folks at the Holiday Inn brand absolutely understand that.

But of course, that’s not all. The view of the beach from our balcony was spectacular during the day…

…and even more spectacular at night — which gets a big thumbs up from me.

Then there’s the pool. Oh man…that pool was amazing. We spent a lot of time enjoying the crystal blue water.

And this photo pretty much sums up how relaxed we were.

As phenomenal as those things were (and they were pretty phenomenal), the best part of our vacation centered around the amazing customer service we received while we were at the resort.

My youngest daughter’s birthday was on July 9th and all we really expected to do was enjoy some family time at the beach and pool. And we did just that.

But that’s when the resort’s team members decided to throw a surprise party for her and we were all pretty floored by it (especially her).

Beyond the birthday surprise, Juan (the General Manager) and his team always ensured that every need of ours was met. They knew when we needed something before we asked, they were super-friendly, and they totally understood what it’s like to travel with kiddos.

When it really comes down to it, now that I’m a dad, I find that I gravitate towards anything that will make my life easier. And do you know what makes my life easier? Good customer service. Having fancy rooms, beautiful beach views, and amazing Mexican food are all outstanding, but the thing that I think about first and foremost was how well we were taken care of.

I believe it was Maya Angelou who said, “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Quoted for truth.

I think the best proof of this is a photo of my daughters with Juan right before we left to go home. They aren’t the kind of kids who will smile around strangers or allow themselves to be picked up by them. They truly felt a connection with Juan due to the great service he provided for them and he felt like an extension of our family.

Even on the flight home, my oldest asked when we would see “Senior Juan” again. Hopefully that will happen very soon.

Needless to say, this was a trip that my family will remember for a lifetime and it all comes down to the service we received from the Holiday Inn resort’s staff. Because all of the perks in the world don’t mean much unless you’re treated well.

 

A Staycation Can Be the Best Vacation

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Holiday Inn. The opinions and text are all mine.

I live in SoCal so I’m one of the lucky ones who’s able to take a short drive to access Disneyland. As most people know who visit the park, there is a LOT to see and do, and oftentimes it can be overwhelming for kiddos and parents. If the kids need an afternoon nap, what are you going to do? Carry them around? Sit on the sidelines while they sleep in a stroller? It makes what should be a fun visit completely stressful.

But when the good folks at Holiday Inn Resorts reached out to offer our family to stay at their Anaheim resort, I took them up on it in a heartbeat, and I’m so glad that I did.

There are a few things that made it great. First off, it’s close to Disneyland and when my daughters inevitably became exhuasted in the middle of the day, we were able to easily head back to our room for a quick nap, and our room was perfect for that. The kids had a separate section with bunk beds separated by door, so I could get some work done while they rested.

Additionally, if you know anything about Disneyland, you probably know that it’s not cheap to do anything there. Especially eating. When I normally go there, I end up spending an arm and a leg on food, but not this time. The Holiday Inn resort in Anaheim has a restaurant called Burger Theory that had some of the best burgers I’ve eaten in a long time.

And the best part? Kids eat for FREE. And since I’m raising two little girls who eat like grown men, this couldn’t be a better perk. I saved a ton of money just on food alone.

Another cool thing about this particular resort is they had an event with Scholastic where kids could participate in arts and crafts with some of their favorite characters.

Whether it was reading with Geronimo the mouse…

…or having a coloring contest with Clifford the big red dog.

The kids had an amazing time.

But as wonderful as the Holiday Inn resort in Anaheim is, the best part is the customer service we received. The folks there truly understand what it’s like for families travelling with young kids and they absolutely took care of us. For example, we spent a good amount of time at Disneyland, but on our last day, my daughters really wanted to swim in the pool. I was worried they wouldn’t get the chance because our check-out time was approaching. When I spoke to the good folks at the front desk, they happily extended our checkout time to 2:00pm which allowed my girls to enjoy some pool time.

Stuff like that goes a LONG way with me and certainly does not go unnoticed.

In closing, it’s crazy to say this — but we actually had more fun at our resort than we did at Disneyland. True story. Between the food, the Scholastic event, the pool time, the comfort of our room, and the amazing customer service we received — what was there not to like?

If you happen to take the family to Disneyland, I highly recommend the Holiday Inn resort in Anaheim. They truly get what it’s like for parents on vacation, and their customer service is second to none. We’ll definitely be back the next time we visit the Magic Kingdom.

My Little Pony, Transformers, and Fun? Oh My!

I’ve partnered with the good folks at Carnival Cruise Line for over two years now, and I’ve seen firsthand how great they are at entertaining families. Whether it’s the Seuss at Sea breakfast, Lip Sync Battle competitions, or bringing Hasbro games to life — there is no shortage of fun to be had onboard any Carnival ship.

But what my family experienced this weekend could top it all.

My daughters were able to meet live action My Little Pony and Transformers characters during a sneak peek of their new Carnival Playtime programming on the beautiful Carnival Imagination, sailing from Long Beach, CA. Let’s just be real — you’ll be hard-pressed to find brands more sought after than those two, and my daughters couldn’t get enough of them.

First, they met Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle from the My Little Pony family and my daughters were over the moon. And as you can tell, I was pretty star struck as well.

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My Little Pony friends were big, colorful, soft, and completely adorable. The girls really wanted to take both of them home with us, but that would’ve disappointed a ton of kids who came onboard to see them, and we couldn’t have that.

But wait, there’s more.

The girls had a chance to win prizes by playing fun parlor games.

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And they also had the opportunity to get “Ponified” with cute headbands and temporary tattoos.

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I know what you may be thinking — “What if my kid isn’t a fan of My Little Pony?” Well instead of asking you how in the world that could be possible, I’ll just say that Transformers were in the house too.

My oldest is a huge fan of Transformers and got to meet Bumblebee and Optimus Prime. As a guy who grew up watching the cartoons, I felt an enormous sense of pride knowing that my kiddo thought those larger than life robots are just as cool as I think they are.

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All in all, Carnival hit a home run with Carnival Playtime. Kids of all ages (even big kids, like me) will be extremely giddy as they hang out with some of the most popular characters in America. I cannot stress enough how much fun my girls had, and I left with a huge smile on my face knowing that thousands of girls and boys will get to experience the same level of excitement on an upcoming Carnival cruise.

As I’ve said many times before, no cruise line does it better than Carnival when it comes to the variety of entertainment options for kids, adults, and families. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to proudly share my selfie with Pinkie Pie, because as you all know, Pinkie Pie is life.

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MY LITTLE PONY, TRANSFORMERS and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro and are used with permission. © 2017 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved. Licensed by Hasbro.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.