Cruisin’ With The Kiddos

In case you missed it, I recently took my family, my twin brother’s family, and my parents on an 8-day Caribbean cruise courtesy of Carnival. It was the experience of a lifetime, but I have to admit that I was a little worried at first. During the plane ride to Miami, a couple nagging thoughts kept…well, nagging me: “8 days is a long time. Will they have a good time? Will they be bored?”

Remember, my daughters are six and three years old. As is the case with most kids, they don’t filter their feelings. If they want to go home, they’ll say so. If they don’t like something, they’ll let anyone in earshot know without a hint of tactfulness. It just comes with the territory.

Thankfully it didn’t take long to receive my answer to those questions after we set sail on the beautiful and brand new Carnival Vista.

#1  Eating

Although we spent a lot of time together as a ten-person unit, there were times when I was alone with one or both of the girls; and one of the first Daddy-Daughter bonding moments occurred when we first arrived on the ship to get something to eat. I must say that the food that Carnival provides is absolutely amazing. The options are endless and you can keep getting more, and more, and more — including 24-hour ice cream and pizza. You have a picky eater at home? There is something for them on the ship, trust me. And let’s be real – there are few better ways to bond with the kids than by eating some tasty food.

And that’s especially the case when it comes to dessert at Cherry On Top.

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#2 – Active Stuff

The Carnival Vista is a brand new ship and is packed with activities geared towards kids, including multiple pools (which my daughters never wanted to get out of).

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And the waterslides were pretty epic. There were two really big ones and a couple of smaller ones that were perfect for the kiddos.

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The Sports Square was great too. My oldest daughter loves basketball and she was able to get some shots up with the most amazing scenery in the background. But if basketball isn’t your thing, they have ping-pong, bowling, mini golf, and a variety of other activities to keep the kiddos happy.

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#3 – Entertainment

Are you a fan of Lip Sync Battle? Well, the Carnival Vista actually has it on the ship and it was practically identical to the version on television. My daughters had a blast dancing in the aisles as fellow cruisers strutted their stuff.

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And the live musicians were great, as well. No matter what music you enjoy, there was something for everyone to get down to.

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One of my favorite parts of fatherhood is creating memories with my children. Am I the perfect dad? No, but who is? One thing I can say with confidence is when my time on this earth has passed, my girls will know that Daddy gave it his all to create the best and happiest lives possible for them. The quality time we spent together in paradise helped strengthen that bond more than ever.

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

Carnival — Ask The Dad

In the interest of full disclosure, when Carnival offered to take my family on an 8-day cruise, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes” at first. We were in desperate need of a vacation and traveling to the eastern Caribbean seemed like the best idea ever.

But if you’ve never cruised before, I’m sure you have questions about what it will be like. Especially if you have kids, like me.

No worries, my friend. That’s why I created this “Ask the Dad” post where you can ask some of your most frequently asked questions.

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 #1 – Will my kids like the food? My kids are picky eaters. What if I couldn’t find something for them to eat? Needless to say, that was the least of my worries. Carnival doesn’t mess around when it comes to food options because there is literally something for everyone. If I had to attach a percentage to it, I’d say that 75% of the time we were awake on the ship, we were putting some yummy goodness into our mouths.

#2 – What if my kids get bored or stir-crazy on the ship? On sea days I erroneously thought we would just sit in our room and watch television. I couldn’t be more wrong. Carnival ships are just like floating cities. After walking around for a little while I realized that we would actually have more fun on the ship than visiting the exotic locations we were traveling to (and that’s saying a lot, trust me). More on this later.

#3 – Will there be enough stuff for my kids to do on the ship? Absolutely. There were so many options that I thought my kids would explode from excitement. There was a video game arcade, an amazing waterpark, a Seuss At Sea breakfast where their favorite Dr. Seuss characters came to life, interactive game shows, 24-hour ice cream and pizza, etc. My daughters absolutely lost their minds due to the amount of fun they had.

 #4 – What can parents do for childcare when we want to have some adult fun? Thankfully there’s Camp Carnival to help with that. It’s like a summer camp and the kids are divided into different groups (2-5 years, 6-8 years, and 9-11 years) to engage in age-specific activities ranging from art, movies, games, reading, toys, and more. Not to mention, they even offer nighttime care as well. It’s the perfect option for parents who need a quick getaway (and let’s face it, all of us need that every now and then).

#5 – What if I don’t like crowds? I was extremely concerned about the ship feeling claustrophobic. If I feel cramped in my own condo, how would I handle cruising? Well, that wasn’t an issue at all. As mentioned earlier, I had more fun on the ship than I did in the actual spots I visited and I didn’t feel crowded at all. Carnival does a great job of spacing everything out and I never experienced a long line/wait for anything. It’s the perfect little floating city.  

Do you want to know what the worst part of this cruise was? The end. My oldest daughter was devastated when I told her we would have to go back home and deal with the hustle and bustle of life back in Southern California (which to her, means kindergarten and Daddy’s cooking).

If you have any additional questions about cruising, be sure to reach out because I have the answers. Until then, I’ll be daydreaming about our next Carnival cruise.

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

 

Everyone is a friend on a cruise

Carnival recently offered to take my family on an 8-day cruise to the western Caribbean, and it was amazing. As is the case with Carnival, the food was excellent, the service was kind and professional, and the Carnival Freedom is a top-notch ship with lots of great perks.

But there’s one underreported aspect of cruising that needs to be talked about more:

Everyone is really cool and super-duper friendly. Here are a few examples of that.

#1 – Grady.

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He’s retired from the Air Force and he’s cruised on Carnival more times that he can remember. We struck up conversation while we ordered some yummy pizza (which is available 24 hours a day). His advice to me was to soak up every good moment of life – and that’s why he vacations with his family so often.
If anyone deserves to spend time enjoying life, it’s someone who served our great nation. Much respect to you, Grady.

#2 – Nick.

Nick was traveling with his girlfriend Liza and we struck up conversation at the bar. He was wearing a Vail, CO T-shirt and I was rocking a kale T-shirt (you know, because I love eating healthy and all). After talking for about ten minutes, he said, “Hey, let’s trade shirts.”

Wait, what? Trade T-shirts with a dude I just met?

“Sure! Why not?”

And that’s exactly what we did.

Before.

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After.

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I mean, would something like this happen anywhere else in the world but on a cruise ship filled with really happy people? Probably not.

Nick, if you’re reading this – I hope you know that I think I won on that deal. That Vail shirt is extremely comfortable.

From kale to Vail, baby.

#3 – My daughters

The “everyone is a friend” theme wasn’t just for grown folks. My daughters love to dance and whenever music played in the lounge after dinnertime, my girls were there getting down to some awesome live music.

On one particular evening, two random little girls from different families joined my daughters and they danced while holding hands. It was probably the cutest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

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There are so many things that are great about cruising, but meeting great people who want to share their happiness with you is probably one of the coolest parts of it. It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is, your political affiliations, or any of the other noise – everyone comes together for one singular goal, which is to have a good time.

That’s just another reason why cruising is really the only way I choose to vacation with my family.

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

The 5 Best Things I Ate On My Cruise

When Carnival offered to take my family on an 8-day cruise to the eastern Caribbean, I jumped all over it. Sure, seeing beautiful sights and enjoying the great weather are wonderful perks, but do you want to know what I was most excited about?

The food.

Carnival doesn’t mess around when it comes to food options and there is literally something for everyone. Like I said before, if I had to attach a percentage to it, I’d say that 75% of the time we were awake on the ship, we were putting some yummy goodness into our mouths.

Here are five of my favorite things I ate on the ship.

#1 – Chicken Parmesan from Cucina Del Capitano: Look, this is not your run-of-the-mill chicken parmesan. It absolutely melted in my mouth and I still can’t get over how fantastic it was. I consider myself to be a pretty good cook and I spent months trying to duplicate the recipe, but failed miserably. All I know is I can’t wait for my next cruise to experience a second helping.

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Also, the ambiance of the restaurant was amazing – and at times I completely forgot that I was on a ship floating in the middle of the ocean. If Italian food is your thing and you’re planning to cruise with Carnival, then you absolutely need to eat here. You won’t be sorry.

#2 – All of the burgers at Guy’s Burger Joint: Are juicy burgers up your alley? Then Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint is for you. No frozen fast food burgers here. Everything is freshly made and prepared Guy’s way, or in a fashion that works for you. This spot was extremely popular on the beautiful Carnival Sunshine, and rightfully so. I can’t remember the last time I ate such a tasty burger.

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#3 – Green eggs and ham at the Seuss at Sea breakfast: Without question, this was my daughters’ favorite. I’ve read countless Dr. Seuss books to them and to see the characters come to life was absolutely amazing for them (and for all of the kiddos onboard the ship).

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But the food was on point, too. The green eggs and ham were so tasty, and my kids kept asking for more. Carnival definitely gets an A+ for making that breakfast experience so fun and memorable. My girls are still asking when they’ll see Thing 1 and Thing 2 again.

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#4 – The 24-hour pizza and ice cream on the Lido Deck: I could pretty much stop there, but I’ll keep going and ask, “Is anything better than 24-hour pizza and ice cream??” I think not.

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I lost count of how many times I went there to grab a late-night bite for my wife and me while the kids were sleeping. Not to mention, with salads, Asian cuisine, deli options, etc., there’s something for everyone on the Lido Deck. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time there.

#5 – The steak in the dining room: The dining room food was amazing, but I truly enjoyed the steak. Again, the quality of it and the atmosphere made you forget that you were floating in the ocean. But if steak isn’t your thing, Carnival does an amazing job of offering diverse menu options to satisfy the pickiest eaters of any family.

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Best of all, it gave my family an opportunity to dress up and look nice. That part alone made it memorable.On one of the formal nights, my daughter and I took some professional photos with Carnival’s photographers, and one of those photos was chosen to be on “The Wall Frame of Fame.” That was a pretty cool moment.

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Cruising is absolutely amazing and I loved every moment of it, but when I look back on what I remembered the most, without question it was the food. I’ll put my cooking skills up against most dads, but there was no way I could duplicate the epic grub Carnival served up. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to make some green eggs and ham for my daughters.

 

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

12 Things I Was Wrong About Cruising

In the interest of full disclosure, when Carnival offered to take my family on an 8-day cruise, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes” at first. We were in desperate need of a vacation and traveling to the eastern Caribbean seemed like the best idea ever.

Then I started to worry.

I’m hardly a cruising veteran, so I wondered if this was a good idea after all. Being stuck on a ship for eight days in the middle of the ocean with my two wild children? I started to think this would end badly. After a few deep breaths, we decided to go for it.

I’m extremely thankful that I did because it ended up being the best vacation we’ve ever taken in our lifetimes. It also helped me to debunk a bunch of cruising myths that I believed prior to setting foot on the beautiful Carnival Sunshine.

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#1 – There’s so much to worry about!: I think I lost about a month off from my life stressing about packing food, clothes, games for entertainment, etc. I was a complete mess…until I arrived on the ship. I realized that everything I needed or wanted for family was already on the Sunshine. Memo to self: On the next cruise, I need to pack less stuff.

#2 – Limited food options: My kids are picky eaters. What if I couldn’t find something for them to eat? Needless to say, that was the least of my worries. Carnival doesn’t mess around when it comes to food options because there is literally something for everyone. If I had to attach a percentage to it, I’d say that 75% of the time we were awake on the ship, we were putting some yummy goodness into our mouths.

#3 – Getting stir-crazy on the ship: On sea days I erroneously thought we would just sit in our room and watch television. I couldn’t be more wrong. Carnival ships are just like floating cities. After walking around for a little while I realized that we would actually have more fun on the ship than visiting the exotic locations we were traveling to (and that’s saying a lot, trust me). More on this later.

#4 – Nothing for kids to do: Wrong again. There were so many options that I thought my kids would explode from excitement. There was a video game arcade, an amazing waterpark, a Seuss At Sea breakfast where their favorite Dr. Seuss characters came to life, interactive game shows, 24-hour ice cream and pizza, etc. My daughters absolutely lost their minds due to the amount of fun they had.

#5 – Nothing for adults to do: Okay, that’s great for the kids and all – but what about if the adults want to take a break from the tiny humans and have some childless fun? Yep, there are plenty of options for that. There are sports bars, comedy shows, a spa, live music, dance clubs, karaoke, and stage shows, just to name a few. Again, Carnival comes through with diverse entertainment choices to please every grown up on the ship.

#6 – No childcare when it’s time for adult fun: Thankfully there’s Camp Carnival to help with that. It’s like a summer camp and the kids are divided into different groups (2-5 years, 6-8 years, and 9-11 years) to engage in age-specific activities ranging from art, movies, games, reading, toys, and more. Not to mention, they even offer nighttime care as well. It’s the perfect option for parents who need a quick getaway (and let’s face it, all of us need that every now and then).

#7 – It’s expensive!: Again, full disclosure here – Carnival paid for my cruise, but even if they didn’t, I’m happy to report that cruising is extremely affordable. When I think back to a recent family vacation to Hawaii, I cringe at the costs we endured. After the hotel, the rental car, and the food – my wallet was significantly lighter. The best part of cruising is you don’t have to worry about a hotel or a rental car – and the meals are included. That’s a lot of money that’s being saved right there. Based on what I’ve seen, cruising is much less expensive than a traditional vacation.

#8 – Lackluster customer service: Of the items on this list, this is the item I was most wrong about. No hyperbole here – the customer service I received while on the Sunshine was the best I’ve ever received anywhere. The crew members knew my name (and how to pronounce it properly, which adds extra bonus points), they knew my family members’ names, they were attentive and timely whenever we had an issue that needed to be addressed, and they even displayed a sense of humor by creating little frog towels and leaving them in my room. The word “epic” wouldn’t even begin to describe how amazing these folks were.

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#9 – No time to see the sights on port days: There was plenty of time to view the wonderful places we visited. Whether it was taking in a Segway tour in Grand Turk, zip lining in St. Kitts, or enjoying a tour of old San Juan, I never felt rushed. It was the perfect compliment to the great features that the Carnival Sunshine provided us.

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#10 – I don’t like crowds!: I was extremely concerned about the ship feeling claustrophobic. If I feel cramped in my own condo, how would I handle cruising? Well, that wasn’t an issue at all. As mentioned earlier, I had more fun on the ship than I did in the actual spots I visited and I didn’t feel crowded at all. Carnival does a great job of spacing everything out and I never experienced a long line/wait for anything. It’s the perfect little floating city.

#11 – I could get seasick: I have a weak belly, so I was worried that seasickness would get me. Nope, that didn’t happen either. Sure, there was a moment or two of getting used to the rhythm of the ocean, but it was hardly a blip on my radar screen. As a matter of fact, the only time I felt sick to my stomach was when it was time to end our wonderful cruise. Which leads me to my last point…

 #12 – My family is going to be so excited to go home after the cruise: Do you want to know what the worst part of this cruise was? The end. My oldest daughter was devastated when I told her we would have to go back home and deal with the hustle and bustle of life back in Southern California (which to her, means preschool and Daddy’s cooking). I promised her that we’ll go on another cruise in the very near future because there’s no way we can duplicate that kind of fun at home.

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

The Biggest Kid On The Ship

“Yes, you have to eat your vegetables before you have dessert.”

“No, you shouldn’t ride your little sister around the living room as if she’s a horse.”

“Yes, you have to wear pants/shorts to school.”

This is just a sample of the things I’ve said to my kids on a given day. Daddying (yes, I made it a verb) is often extremely exhausting. Our kids are constantly testing the boundaries of our patience and sanity, and every sentence seemingly starts with us saying, “stop” and ends with us counting to three.

When I find myself staring at the ceiling in my bed after a long day of said daddying, I find myself wondering, “Man, I just want to be a kid again.” Don’t get me wrong, I love being a dad – but a dude needs a time out from all of the craziness and responsibilities every now and then.

That’s when Carnival came to save the day.

They offered to take my family on an 8-day eastern Caribbean cruise and I was super excited about it. Granted, I knew that true daddying never ceases, but at least I could let my hair down (wait, I don’t have any hair…searching for a comparable metaphor) err, kick back a bit and be a kid myself.

The best part about it is I found that being silly and carefree while on the beautiful Carnival Sunshine helped strengthen my already strong bond with my two young daughters.

So how did I pull it off?

First off, I wasn’t such a stickler when it came to dining. I told my girls that we were all operating on a “SeeFood Diet.” In other words – if you see food, you can eat it. Carnival could not be better in that regard, because the meal choices are plentiful and delicious.

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I left my Veggie Police badge at home, and nobody was happier about that than my daughters. There were days when we ate pizza for breakfast and ice cream at 10:00pm.

Why did we do it? For the same reason that anyone does anything.

Because we could. The Carnival Sunshine has 24-hour pizza and ice cream onboard. Needless to say, that perk alone made it the best vacation ever for them (and for countless other kids on the ship, I’m guessing). And yes, I was one of those kids who enjoyed every bite.

Next up, we played games. Lots and lots of games. On sea days, we always found ourselves in the arcade. My daughters were so excited to have me play the games with them. I wasn’t a passive observer while they ran around like crazy – I was in the trenches as well. The smiles were nonstop, because as I mentioned before <insert link to previous post> creating memories with our kids is one of the most valuable exercises we can take part in as parents.

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Finally we posed for silly photos. I wanted my daughters to know that I can take a break from being serious and be a complete clown. Even the Cat In the Hat didn’t know how to react to us.

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I’m so incredibly thankful for having the opportunity to find my inner-kid again on that Carnival cruise because it made me become a better dad when I got home. Things that mattered so much beforehand didn’t matter as much anymore.

The kids skipped a serving of veggies? Big deal. They’ll survive.

The kids want to wrestle each other? Big deal. That’s what kids do. As long as they’re safe, I’m okay with it.

The kids don’t want to wear pants or shorts to school? Sorry, that’s just too bad. They need to learn that some things in life are non-negotiable.

Just like I’ve learned that being a kid myself at times is non-negotiable if I want to live a happy and balanced life.

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

Memories Are Greater Than Stuff

Before I became a dad, I met a couple in Los Angeles that loved traveling. Almost every month they visited a new place, and I was completely fascinated by them. No, they weren’t two rich, childless people who had nothing but money and free time to spend. We’re talking about an everyday, middle class couple with two young children.

One weekend they would take the kids to San Francisco. Another weekend they would drive to Arizona. When they wanted to go all out on a vacation, they would take a family cruise to an exotic location. But here’s the thing: all of this costs money. How could this typical all-American family afford to travel so much?

And that’s exactly what I asked them.

The dad looked at me and smiled, “Because we only spend our money on creating memories. We don’t have the newest gadgets, cable television, or fancy cars – but the time we spend together while traveling is so incredibly valuable. As a parent you’ll realize that memories are greater than stuff.”

Memories are greater than stuff. I’ll never forget that line. Why? Because it’s so true.

Now that I’m a dad, I splurge less on stuff and more on creating memories. I mean, think about it – will our kids remember that we bought them $20 shoes instead of $120 shoes? Or will they remember that we used the money we saved to go an amazing vacation? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can’t remember what kind of clothes or shoes I wore when I was a kid, but I remember every family vacation as vividly as I remember what I ate for breakfast this morning. That’s because the strongest memories are forged through strong emotions (happiness, love, fear, sadness, etc.)

When Carnival offered to take my family on an 8-day eastern Caribbean cruise, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes” because I knew the opportunity to create lifelong memories with my family would be there. Speaking of strong emotions, I remember how freaked out my daughter was when I asked her to go down the waterslide on the beautiful Carnival Sunshine.

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After a few hugs and a pep talk from Daddy, she finally decided to go down the kiddie slide and was completely overjoyed afterwards.

The noteworthy part of this story is my daughter still talks about that experience and smiles when she thinks of the fun she had on that cruise. Do you think she (or any kid) would remember anything about the stuff we buy them? Probably not. And if they did, the emotions evoked wouldn’t compare to the emotions that come from the things we do with them.

Memories are greater than stuff.

I’m thankful for that man who gave me such a valuable piece of advice as I navigate through the oftentimes crazy world of parenting. If there’s a downside to all of this, it’s that my daughter constantly asks when we will go on another cruise to create some more memories. But hey, that’s the price you have to pay when you’re having fun.

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