Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our family Cruise

My husband and I love to cruise. We went on a cruise for our honeymoon and found out that we LOVE it. We then went on our second cruise when we'd been married 2 1/2 years and it was fantastic. Now we've been married for 5 years and we were itching for another cruise. After looking at our options we decided to go as a whole family this time and take our children. My friend Amber (from music camp, college, she's been my friend for a long time) and her family came with us.
After weighing our options of reviews verses price and on board options we decided to go with Carnival- it was by far the cheapest for 5 people, had rooms for 5 people, and take 2 year olds at the kids camp- no other cruise lines starts at 2 (EVERYONE else starts at 3, they may offer paid babysitting but not inclusive kids camp) and with two two year old girls that was a HUGE deal.
We had heard a lot of things about Carnival being the "booz cruise" and being how any cruise line in the Caribbean is the "party" destination. But we had also heard that it isn't as bad as the rumors say and we hoped we made the best choice considering all our needs.

We choose a 5 day cruise (that way if the children didn't handle it well it was shorter), out of Galveston, TX (because we could drive there and stay in budget), with two stops Cozumel and Progresso, Mexico (so we could see Chichen Itza).
We loved out shore excursions, Chichen Itza was awesome and in Cozumel we did a private island called Passion Island. It was awesome. We were a little concerned about the "all you can drink" alcohol but there was only one person who was obviously drunk when the shore excursion was over. The awesome part of Passion Island was the kids section. They had activities, and a play area and children supervisors that were great with the kids. We didn't fully leave our children there (although we could have) we sat up next to the play area were we could watch them play. Our daughters discovered water color painting and did that for over an hour.  
Our children LOVED it. They had so much fun. The loved their time at the kid's camp and would beg to go. 
Our steward had fun with our children's toys and kids loved seeing it and the fun animal towels.
So its a good thing our children enjoyed the kids camp because there was nothing else on ship for us to "safely" do with our children. If we weren't at the kids camp, we were in our room using the laptop to watch a movie.
Here comes the downer side of everything....
1. Carnival bills themselves as "family friendly" not just that they have a kids area but they advertise that everything is family friendly for the entire family.
FALSE it was such a drunken party all over the ship that we would avoid walking anywhere near the pool or the casino with our children. I didn't want to expose our children to that atmosphere. 
On top of that I didn't want to be in that atmosphere. We didn't go swimming once because we didn't want to be in that area.
Compare and Contrast- On our other two cruises we would go to the pool, participate in the different on board activities. Never once did I feel like the fact that I wasn't drinking anything but soda ever make me self continuous or even aware that I was the only one not drinking. Every activity focuses around alcohol.
In addition, even the shows said they were family friendly. We went to one of them that said was rated "PG for costumes". I would have given the costumes a PG-13 rating and the show as well. NO way would I have taken my children at any age to see it. After that we skipped the other shows.
2. Our room was a lot smaller than on the other ships we've been on. It ended up fine, but it was tight for 5. I think if we didn't have a balcony it would have been much more difficult. The TV channels were a joke. There was never anything to watch, especially for our children. And our room was two floors above the "broadway" shows theater and we could hear EVERY word and note through the whole show. Either the boat was not constructed with sound proofing or the show is way too loud, or both.
3. Besides a few super stand out employees the rest of the service was below par- way below. We love to do the "unlimited" soda. One thing we LOVED is they had Coke ZERO and Sprite ZERO as part of their soda options. If not for this options I wouldn't have done the unlimited soda. I am not a huge soda drinker- but when I do drink soda I only drink diet soda. I do not drink my calories (except for milk or juice in the morning for my breakfast). So here is the complaint. The soda was done in cans that they poured into cups with ice for you. It was never already cold soda, and often was flat because it doesn't take a whole can to fill the cup and the rest of the can would just sit out until someone asked for that soda again, then they would get what was left from the last can before they would open a new can. It created a lot of flat soda. Then there were the bar tenders where you had to get the soda. Besides the bar tender in the main lobby with the guest services desk, all the bar tenders acted like your were imposition them to have them get you a drink. Yes we aren't making any more money for them, but we did pay for it and that makes money for them.
Shout outs---- Regina in the dining hall was AWESOME!!! and so was Daniel the dining hall drink server!!!
4. The food was... okay. It wasn't anything amazing or even special. I really liked the hot chocolate in the buffet area that was inclusive, and the soft serve ice cream always available. And my favorite was the chocolate molten cake in the dinning hall. But when it comes to meals, nothing was so wonderful to brag about. And the same food was available at the dinning hall as were the at the buffet. 

Our biggest problem, was that we learned that the world's definition of "family friendly" is - 'there is a safe place to drop off your kids while you go get smashed'. 
It was a good cruise for us at that moment in our lives. Having to take the girls everywhere with us would have not worked and the girls had so much more fun at the kids camps. But we will probably NEVER do that particular cruise again.
Overall we did have a great family vacation. 
and everyone was happy to get home again.

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