Taking a cruise with your family is a great way for everyone to spend time together and also to enjoy individual interests, or so I discovered on my family’s recent multigenerational Carnival cruise.
For Thanksgiving, I took a four-night Carnival family cruise from New Orleans, Louisiana, with six of my family members and friends. My dad usually loves driving everywhere for our vacations, so this was the first time we all hopped on a boat together for one of our holiday getaways. The experience turned out to be a surprise hit.
Carnival Cruise Lines has 23 Fun Ships with ports all over the United States and in fun destinations like the Bahamas, Mexico, Jamaica and Europe. Each of the ships has a spa, bars and nightclubs, a casino, and Vegas-style shows and comedians.
Dining, Dining, More Dining
One of the biggest perks of taking a cruise is the endless supply of meals and snacks. A breakfast and lunch buffet is served each day and a more formal dinner at night. Dinner is the best time for your family to re-group after a busy day since a table is reserved for your group. Many people order multiple appetizers, entrees and desserts at dinner to sample all the menu items since all meals are pre-paid. Pizza and ice cream are available 24 hours a day, and midnight buffets are open on selected nights.
Since food is made in such mass quantities on cruise ships, some foods lack seasoning and great taste. But, the perk about the endless supply of food is that if you don’t like something, you can always try something else!
Kid’s Entertainment From Toddlers to Teens
On our cruise, the Camp Carnival and other youth programs provided supervised day-long entertainment for kids 2-17 at no charge. I was assured that all youth counselors have met educational standards and undergone background checks. They also have CPR and First Aid training. Parents with children 2-8 receive pagers so they can be notified immediately in case of an emergency. In the evening, babysitting is offered from 10pm-3am in a group setting, for a nominal fee, for children ages 4 months to 8 years.
For toddlers ages 2 to 5-years, bingo, cartoon time, sponge painting, sing-alongs and more are part of the group play at Camp Carnival. Juniors 6 to 8-years-old can have fun with activities such as pizza parties, movie time, T-shirt painting and video games.
Intermediates ages 9-11 are encouraged to take part in ping-pong tournaments, dance classes, scavenger hunts and talent shows. Preteens and teens 12-14 are grouped into the Circle “C” program where they are allowed into the cruise dance club from 9:30-10:45pm, before the bar service begins. They are also invited to use the computer lab, and to attend late night movies and karaoke parties. A youth spa program specifically for teens has joined the line’s Spa Carnival health and fitness facilities to offer the Fabulous Fruity Facial, a facial that uses fresh fruits to moisturize and treat the skin; and Surfers Scrub, a sea salt scrub that combines seaweed and mint to treat and refresh.
Finally, Club 02 for teens 15-17 years old, get all the perks as the younger teens and then some. With their own private lounge, these teens get to relax with friends while participating in a myriad of activities, such as pool parties, reality game shows and scavenger hunts.
Fun for All Generations Aboard & Ashore
While onboard every Fun Ship, passengers can enjoy duty-free shopping, tanning and games on the top deck, swimming and using the water slides, or attending interesting seminars and tours. There is enough variety for all ages to do things together or apart. Photographers are everywhere around the ship to capture family antics and memories, and each day’s photos are posted (and for sale) in one of the decks’ galleries.
Every port also offers a variety of activities. Because shore excursions sometimes sell out, I recommend that before your ship reaches port, you pick from excursions such as swimming with dolphins, cultural walking tours, organized sightseeing submarine rides and more that you would like to experience once the boat docks. Of course, you can also disembark and walk around on your own. However, the ship’s organized tours are timed to your arrival and ensure that no one gets lost or left behind. When your excursion is over, you’ll feel more comfortable at the port of call. Then, you are free to tour the destination or relax back on board, either as a group or on your own.
When we reached the Mexican port of Cozumel, for example, my entire family group went on a two-hour snorkeling trip. After exploring the beautiful Caribbean waters surrounding this island together, my 18 and 20-year-old brothers, my boyfriend and I went to the popular Carlos ‘n’ Charlie’s Bar in the main town. (When traveling with young adults, keep in mind the drinking age is 18 at most ports of call in international waters.)
Intrigued by the narrow streets filled with shops, my dad, step mom and 23-year-old stepbrother decided instead to go shopping. We all took taxis around the city, then met back at the pier outside of the cruise ship before it departed Mexico that evening. The flexibility this cruise offered us — to spend time together or apart — was key to making this family vacation the surprise hit that it was.
Details, Details for Planning a Carnival Family Cruise
Carnival’s 23 Fun Ships operate more than 1,300 voyages annually from 23 different North American and international homeports. Their 3 to 16-day itineraries call on the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England and Europe.
On each Fun Ship, the Camp Carnival programs include art, music, science, and reading programs, and on-shore outings such as active adventure tours ideal for tweens and teens. Additionally, to appeal to health-conscious families, Fun Ship dining rooms serve dishes low in fat content, calories, sodium, and cholesterol, as well as vegetarian and low-carbohydrate dishes.
Let us not forget “Fun Ship” Freddy, Carnival’s mascot who makes on appearance on all Fun Ships. Freddy’s red, white and blue appearance incorporates elements of a Carnival ship, such as a “funnel-shaped” head and Carnival crew ID badge. Since guests, particularly children, have responded very well to photo ops with Freddy, plush toys are now sold in Carnival gift shops.
The tools to book your own family cruise, or obtain additional information on Carnival’s cruises, are available from your travel agent, or through Carnival (888/CARNIVAL; Carnival Cruises).
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