Smooth Sailing Ahead: My Take on Cruising with Kids
Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Over the years, I've heard many parents express that traveling with kids is difficult.It's not uncommon to hear weary moms and dads proclaim that they need a vacation from their vacation! In my opinion, these parents are...well, they're right. Traveling with kids can be difficult! We've had our share of traveling stress. One trip that comes to mind is a road trip that we embarked on when our children were 2, 4, and 5. We drove from California to Tennessee and back for a family reunion. We hit 14 states in the matter of 3 weeks (with one whole week spent in Tennessee), and we also seemed to hit almost every problematic weather condition possible! Tornado warnings, snow, ice (which actually broke our windshield on the first day of our trip), flash floods, and heavy rains. It was quite the adventure, but the kind that merited a post-vacation vacation!
All that to say, when Nate and I were discussing how we wanted to celebrate our ten-year anniversary (and we knew we wanted to make it a family trip), a cruise was the first thing that came to mind! Carnival's Ocean Camp kids club and not having to budget in food and activity expenses everyday took a lot of stress out of the prep and planning. It wasn't until after our cruise that I had truly appreciated the brilliance in a family vacation that includes built-in parent mini-vacations!
We had taken a short cruise before on our honeymoon to Cabo and Ensenada. Our second cruise route was similar, but would hit Cabo, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta. (I'm not going to discuss the ports of call in this post, as I'll be writing about those separately). I just want to share our experience on the ship, which was the Carnival Elation!
Though often crowded, we were able to enjoy the pools, hot tubs, and water slide! (I've also heard that the newer ships have bigger and better pools, which I'm looking forward to checking out!) We're pretty easy-going when it comes to crowds though and had tons of fun in the water!
We all thought Camp Ocean was wonderful (and I have pretty high standards for any place I send my children without my company). I felt comfortable with the staff and the protocols. It was clear that they weren't "babysitters" but truly loved kids and made sure each child felt comfortable and had fun. By the end of the trip, the staff knew each of my children by name. We also appreciated that a schedule was handed to us at the beginning of the trip with the Camp Ocean itinerary for the week. It was nice to know what the kids were up to and they were excited to check in for certain activities such as bingo (with prizes!), video game hour, and special arts and crafts.
There were phones available for checkout upon request so that the workers could reach parents from anywhere on the ship. Though we only used that service for one day, it was greatly appreciated. Signing children in and out was simple and secure. Older children and teens are able to sign themselves in and out with permission.
Our kiddos loved Seuss at Sea and all the activities offered including a fun show, parade, costumed characters to meet, and our favorite, the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast! The staff went above and beyond to make the events magical and fun!
We appreciated that there was an adults only retreat area on the ship. When our little ones were in childcare, however, we spent most of our time in the dining hall playing cards and eating way too much. (Oh, the joy of vacations!)
Speaking of food, we chose to enjoy the fine dining restaurant, The Black Pearl, each evening for dinner and our time spent together there is one of my fondest memories of the trip! I know that with younger kids it might prove to be a little more difficult, but we had the best time and enjoyed the waitstaff and entertainment! The kids were able to try things they may never have otherwise, and we got to enjoy wonderful service and a relaxed atmosphere.
The miniature golf at the top of the ship made for a wonderful afternoon with a gorgeous view! There are so many activities on board, you'd have to try exceptionally hard to run out of things to do!
Another one of the kids' favorite rooms was the arcade! We waited until a certain time of day when the games were half off and had a blast!
We loved that everything was kid friendly but not everything was particularly catered to children (and we also loved the ice cream station that was available 24/7)! We felt that there was a great balance onboard that allowed us to feel like adults when we wanted, as well as act silly and spend family time together when we wanted!
Overall, I feel like Carnival does a wonderful job allowing families to feel comfortable and have fun, as well as allowing parents to take a much-needed break (and do so without stress or worries).