Wanna Feel Good About the World? Go on a Cruise

One thing I try to do as a dad is introduce my kids to new stuff all of the time. New food, new places, new experiences, and new people. To me, I feel that’s a great way to learn more about what this great world has to offer.

But here’s a startling statistic. Did you know that close to 40% of Americans have never moved away from their hometowns? It’s hard for people to identify with different cultures, races, or ethnicities if you see the same people everyday, right?

The best way to become more accepting and tolerant of people that are different from us are to enter their environments and see how they live. In doing so, we’ll realize that we are all way more similar than we are different.

That’s why I was so happy when Carnival recently offered to take my family on an 8-day Caribbean cruise in January. Our travels took us to the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Grand Turk, and Bonaire — and we met a lot of interesting people, but it’s not just about those locations. My family had the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people from all walks of life on the beautiful and brand new Carnival Vista as well.

First off, Carnival has a lot of diverse restaurants from steakhouses, Asian cuisine, Italian at Cucina del Capitano (my personal favorite), and much more. My kids were able to experience fine dining from different cultures without leaving the ship.

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And as far as the people are concerned, my daughters enjoyed dancing, swimming, eating, and playing with people from various backgrounds while on the ship. Did my girls care that those people didn’t look like them? Of course not. They just wanted to have a good time and that’s exactly what they did. It was beautiful to witness.

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I certainly don’t have the answers to all of the world’s problems, but I feel that one potential fix is to ensure our kids hang out with as many people as possible who may not look like them, try new foods, and go to new places. Carnival checked all of the boxes for us on our recent cruise and we are so thankful for that.

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.

 

5 Reasons Why Cruising is Better Than a Traditional Vacation

In the interest of full disclosure, when Carnival offered to take my family on an 8-day cruise, I was 100% onboard (cruising pun completely intended). I was overworked and I needed a vacation in the worst way.

[Read more…]

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.

All Work Just Doesn’t Work

By now you know that I have the Daddy Doin’ Work nickname, but I didn’t come up with it by accident. Not to pat myself on the back here, but I’m a ridiculously hard worker. But guess what? I think I have that in common with you, too.

Here’s some not-so-breaking news for you: Americans are overworked.

In a recent survey, over 50% of workers in the U.S. felt burned out. Additionally, many employees don’t take vacation time that’s offered to them by leaving a combined 429 million unused paid vacation days behind a year.

That’s just crazy.

But is it, really?

We live in such a hypercompetitive society that many parents feel as if they need to be connected to the office or risk being left behind.

Greg from Atlanta shared his thoughts with me: “I feel as if I have to respond to emails within a reasonable amount of time or else people will feel like I’m slacking. Even if those emails come in the middle of the night.”

Liz from San Diego shared her thoughts as well: “I want to be super mom and a super employee, but I’m failing miserably at both because I’m always so tired.”

The problem is that always being connected at the office leaves us feeling less connected at home. I know this is true because I lived it. I felt that I was being pulled in so many different directions and I couldn’t say “no” to anyone. It was always, “Sure, I can do that,” when inside I was like, “I have no clue how I’m going to do that.”

I became exhausted and irritable, and my family knew I wasn’t myself. That’s when I pumped the brakes to realize what is truly important – and it meant spending time with the people I love the most. My daughters are growing up so fast and I realized that my stress was taking away from my joy in raising them.

What did I do to fix it?

I went on a vacation – specifically, a Carnival cruise. Yep, I actually used real vacation time. I didn’t check email or obsess about the work that would be waiting for me when I returned. I just focused on having a blast and recharging my batteries.

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Not only did I have a great time with my family, but I felt that I reconnected with myself. Sometimes all it takes is to separate yourself from the craziness of life to learn more about your priorities.

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We’re all going to die someday, and when that time comes do you think you’ll wish you spent more time at the office or more time with the people you love? Exactly.

If you’re offered time off from work, I urge you to take it. Not only will it make you a better employee and parent, it will make you a happier employee and parent.

Not to mention, time is the only resource we can’t get back once it’s spent. Don’t waste it by trying to be a “hero” at the office by skipping out on vacation time. Instead be a hero with the little ones who love you more than anything.

Because at the end of the day, the only thing our kids want us to spend on them is our time.

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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.