So You’re Thinking About Cruising, Huh?

I’ve been fortunate to venture on two Carnival cruises in the past year or so, but at first I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be weird to be on a ship for such a long time? How would it compare to a traditional vacation?

I’m sure some of you reading this never experienced cruising before and wonder if it would be a good vacation option. As far as I’m concerned, the short answer is “absolutely yes.”

But I know you probably will need more convincing than that, so here are a few quick reasons why I believe that your next vacation should be a cruise.

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#1 – Forget the rental cars, hotels, and searching for food: In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a fan of renting cars and installing car seats for the kiddos — especially when I’m trying to relax on vacation. When you cruise, it’s a simple process:

1) Fly to the port. 2) Take a shuttle to the ship. 3) Get on the ship.

That’s it.

Hotel? C’mon.

There is no need to find a hotel because the ship is the hotel!

What about eating?

Have you ever visited a foreign country, traveled 10 miles to a restaurant, and realized that your kids weren’t interested in the food? Not a problem on a cruise, because Carnival has food options onboard to please the pickiest of eaters.

Needless to say, cruising absolutely simplifies the vacation process.

#2 – There is SO much to do!: Ever go on a traditional vacation and find yourself driving around aimlessly looking for something fun to do? Well, it happened to me plenty of times and I was never happy about it. That’s where cruising saves the day because the ship is like a big floating city.

Want entertainment? There are sports bars, comedy shows, a spa, live music, dance clubs, karaoke, gourmet restaurants, and stage shows, just to name a few. Again, Carnival comes through with diverse entertainment choices to please every grown up on the ship.

And if you want to enjoy grown up fun without the kids, many Carnival ships have built-in childcare services. You seriously cannot beat that.

Speaking of the kiddos, what can they do for fun?

Many Carnival ships have video game arcades, amazing waterparks, a Seuss At Sea breakfast where their favorite Dr. Seuss characters came to life, interactive game shows, and 24-hour ice cream and pizza.

There is nonstop fun for all ages.

#3 – The people are great: Oftentimes it’s a mixed bag when you go on a traditional vacation. You never know if the people you’ll meet will be friendly or not. My experience was totally different when I cruised with my family. Everyone I met was extremely nice. No joke – the customer service I received while on the Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Freedom 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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But that’s only half of it, because the guests were amazing, too. Meeting great people who want to share their happiness with you is probably one of the coolest parts of cruising. 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.

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 These are just a few reasons why cruising is really the only way I choose to vacation with my family. If you’re considering going on a cruise, definitely go for it. You won’t regret it.

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

 

Cruising Through the Eyes of a Child

One of the best parts of being a parent is witnessing life from the vantage point of our children. Many of things we think are mundane are absolutely amazing to them. For example, during a simple walk on the beach our kids will scream out in excitement over finding a colorful seashell or when the waves crash against the sand.

Speaking of sandy beaches, I recently took my family on an 8-day western Caribbean cruise courtesy of Carnival, and I noticed how my daughters’ eyes lit up from the moment we set foot on the beautiful Carnival Freedom until the time we went home.

Remember, my daughters are 5 and almost 3 years old, so a lot of what they witnessed was completely new to them. Here are some examples of how all of that went down.

Aggggghhhh! Frogs!

Carnival knows exactly what to do to keep kids happy. For example, they’re famous for their amazing towel animals. And yes, the clever crew put a frog towel in my room and I received a nice chuckle out of it (for those of you who don’t know, I have a frog phobia – but at least Carnival’s towel frog was cute).

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Every night after dinner, my daughters would rush back to our cabin to see what the crew created for them.

But that wasn’t all.

The cool thing is the girls had a chance to see the towel animals come to life during an awesome puppet show.

Yes, the folks at Carnival even had a tutorial on how to create the towel animals, but let’s be real – nobody can do it better than the experts.

Views, baby. Views.

We live in California, and there are some spectacular views in my state, but nothing compares to what my kids saw from our ocean view cabin. Getting them to actually leave our room was a challenge at times because of how amazing the scenery was.

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Green eggs and ham!

But wait, there’s more. Carnival puts on an amazing Seuss at Sea brunch where they serve Green Eggs & Ham and other goodies while the characters from the iconic books come to life. My daughters became really excited when Thing 1 and 2 came by our table. As you can see here, Thing 1 and my daughter had a nice bonding moment once they realized they share the same hairstylist.

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Time to get down!

My kids love music and the performers on the Carnival Freedom were top notch. Every night after dinner, my girls would hit the dance floor and strut their stuff. And let’s be real — few things are more adorable than watching a toddler completely own the dance floor.

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Time off of the ship.

We had a lot of fun visiting Cozumel, Belize, and Mahogany Bay. The girls loved seeing and swimming with the dolphins, and were locked into a constant state of wonderment the entire time.

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People say that kids keep us young, and that was the case during our cruise. With every smile that my kids shared, I provided an even bigger smile in return. Nothing in the world mattered when I saw how happy they were, and Carnival did an amazing job of making that happen.

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

5 Hidden Gems on a Cruise

When Carnival offered to take my family on an 8-day cruise to the eastern Caribbean, I was super excited. The great food, warm weather, and relaxing atmosphere are just a few of the things that I looked forward to. But then a strange thing happened once I got onboard the beautiful Carnival Sunshine.

There was more that I didn’t even know about.

Like most Carnival ships, the Sunshine is absolutely huge. It’s actually like riding on a floating city. Because of its immense size, it can be easy to miss some good stuff. No worries, my friend – that’s what I’m here for.

Here are 5 of my favorite hidden gems on a Carnival Cruise.

#1 – The Library Bar: Want to relax in a quiet setting? The Library Bar is the place to go. Read a book, enjoy a drink from the state-of-the-art self-serve wine dispensers, or challenge a friend to a game of chess. It’s one of the best places on the ship to visit when you’re looking for a “Zen moment.”

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#2 – Hasbro the Game Show: Growing up, we all played Hasbro board games, right? Can you imagine how cool it would be if you could play giant versions of Simon, Sorry!, and other classic games? It’s pretty cool, because I did it during my cruise – and I had no idea it existed until the final days of my cruise.

It’s an absolute blast as you can team up with your kids, your friends, or rock it by yourself.

I mean, Connect 4 basketball?! Where do I sign up?

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#3 – Adults Only Serenity Deck: Yes, we all love our kids. Now that we’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way, there are times when grown folks need to be around other grown folks. The adults-only serenity deck provides that calming feeling every parent dreams about during the daily hustle and bustle back home. Grab a book, swing on a hammock, enjoy a cold beverage, and celebrate life.

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#4 – Mixology classes: Sure, you may be the type who enjoys a nice fruity beverage while on the ship (I know that I do), but what if you want to learn how to make them professionally?

Carnival offers these cool mixology courses where you can learn to make some fancy drinks on your own. I had a blast, but man – it wasn’t easy. Just check out my experience below.

 

 

 

 

#5 – Karaoke:

You can’t say you’ve truly enjoyed a vacation unless you’ve done some karaoke. I had the pleasure of leading a live band in some songs and it was so much fun. No matter how you feel about karaoke (and I absolutely love it), it’s a great way to bring people together and have a blast in the process. I had no clue that it existed, but I’m glad I took the plunge. See for yourself!

 

 

 

 

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Cruising is absolutely amazing, but discovering the hidden gems makes it so much fun. How many more hidden gems are out there that I have yet to discover? I can’t wait to find out on my next Carnival cruise!

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 Main Thing

The other day I was scrolling through some old photos on my phone, and I came across some baby photos of my oldest daughter (who is now 4.5 years old). I remembered how her birth changed my life for the better and how I promised that I would be the best daddy I could possibly be for her. Then, due to two different reasons, the emotional floodgates opened.

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Daddy’s Day Off

By now you’re probably aware of this, but I recently took my wife, two young daughters, and my parents on an 8-day eastern Caribbean cruise courtesy of Carnival. All of us had a blast, but our experience would’ve been much different if it wasn’t for Camp Carnival (more on that in a minute).

As you also probably know, my daughters are four and two years old and they are the center of my universe. I love them with every fiber of my being and my whole mission in life is dedicated to ensuring they have the best lives possible.

Consider that paragraph, my “parenting disclaimer.”

I spent a TON of time with my kids during the cruise, but sometimes I needed a break from toddler tantrums and diaper changes to keep my sanity intact. Enter Camp Carnival. It’s a place where kids can enjoy arts, crafts, games, singing, and a ton of fun with experienced counselors.
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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous at first when I left my girls there for a couple of hours, but they had such an amazing time that they were excited to go back again the following day.

So what did they do?

One day they had a dance party, another day it was a pirate-themed party, another day they had a rubber dart contest – but the common denominator was always fun. And as any parent knows, the best endorsement kids can give to something is when they want more of it.
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The reality is that taking part in the excursions/activities that my wife, my parents, and I enjoyed would be impossible without proper childcare. No matter how you slice it, ziplining with a two-year old and a four-year old probably wouldn’t be the best idea. To have the peace of mind that my kids were safe and having fun made me feel completely relieved and way less guilty while we enjoyed some adult fun.

Speaking of adult fun, what did we do when the kids were playing at Camp Carnival?

We took a mixology course. Beforehand, the only drink I could “make” was pouring a beer into a glass. Now I can make the meanest, dirtiest martini in the world. Okay, not exactly – but I’m much better at making mixed drinks than I was prior to entering the ship.

I convinced my mom to go ziplining with me in St. Kitts. Like I said in a previous post, my mom’s idea of “scary” is overcooking a pasta casserole. To see the look on her face during that experience is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. When we talked on the phone last week, she asked, “When is our next cruise?? I want to do that zipline thing again.” All of a sudden the woman who gave birth to me is now a card-carrying member of the daredevil club.

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Then my wife and I went on a Segway tour in Grand Turk. Call me crazy, but I’ve always wanted to ride on one of those things, and to be able to do it in such a beautiful location was priceless.

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During the Segway tour in Grand Turk, there was a horse happily walking on the beach by itself and I snapped this photo. Talk about something that should be on a postcard, right? Good thing my girls weren’t with me or else they would’ve insisted we brought it home as a pet.

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And last but not least, I led a band singing Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl” in front of over 100 strangers, and it wasn’t pretty. But hey, at least I had fun. I can’t speak for the folks who had to listen to me, though.

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The best part of all of this was coming back to my kids who were so excited to tell me about all of the fun things they did while I was away. They had such a blast that on the flight home, my daughter said, “I don’t want to go to school tomorrow! I want to go to Camp Carnival!” That pretty much tells the story.

I know that I’m a fatherhood author, activist, and public speaker – but everyone needs a break from the parenting routine to enjoy some grown up fun with loved ones. Doing so helps recharge my batteries to make me an even better dad to my two daughters – and for this particular vacation, I owe a huge thanks to Camp Carnival for making that happen.

And if recharging those batteries means rocking out to 80’s music, then so be it.

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


Grandparents, Toddlers, and Vacation – Oh My!

If you’re following me on social media, you’ve probably noticed a lot of photos taken of me and my family on an 8-day eastern Caribbean cruise courtesy of Carnival. Without question, it was the best vacation of my life, but I’ll get to that part in a minute. First let me talk about how it all went down.

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Doin’ Work In Cruise Control

I call myself a Daddy Doin’ Work, so there’s no secret that I put in a lot of work during the course of any given day. That fact doesn’t make me special, because doin’ work is a highlighted item on the parenting job description for all of us. Cranky babies, late night feedings, managing toddler tantrums, shuttling to and from soccer practice, and questioning our intelligence as we clumsily attempt to help our teenagers with algebra homework is enough to make the best of us exhausted.

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