Sunday, March 19, 2017

Carnival Review

The boys give it two thumbs up. Mom and dad would agree. We had such a wonderful time together as a family & although some might look at Carnival as the "economy" cruise line, it had EVERYTHING we needed & more.

From start to finish it was easy. & that is what we were looking for. I was able to sure their website to answer most all of my questions and for the ones I couldn't find answers to, I called. I never had to wait long to speak with someone and they were SUPER nice and very informative. Carnival offers the ability to check-in online (I'm sure most cruise lines do) which we took advantage of and pre-selected our boarding time making our boarding process so incredibly smooth with hardly any wait at any point in the process.

Excursions we did through their website too. Instead of trying to do it all on our own, we booked through Carnival. We knew that if something went wrong or if the weather was bad, we would be entitled to a full a refund. Not to mention they took care of the travel arrangements to and from the excursions. Their website was very user friendly, it allowed you to browse by age of the kids, by highest rated, by destination--so many ways to find the right excursion for your family. It also allowed you to save your favorites and then compare them. My favorite part of their excursion online booking process are the reviews from previous cruisers. We were headed on a helicopter tour and although it stated our youngest would be able to do it, it was nice to see that others had taken their young kids on it and they had enjoyed it too.

Room Drops--prior to boarding I had ordered water, beer and vodka to be delivered to our room. We could carry on Red Bull which would allow me to have my drink of choice for the cruise by using the vodka in the room. I'm not a big drinker so the all you can drink pass for alcohol wasn't a great idea for our family as both adults would have to buy it. We also were able to set up having a couple Cat in the Hat stuffed animals to be delivered on a specific day for the boys. We returned from a port day and there they were, allowing it to be a wonderful surprise that Justin and I didn't have to worry about.

Airport Transportation-I didn't book transportation to the port but I did book it for once we returned to get us to the airport. Once again, easy. We got off the ship, walked through customs and there was our bus waiting and off it took. It was cheaper than an Uber would have been and the boys enjoyed the big bus that we got to ride on, it was like super clean too.

What would I do differently--sign up for the Faster to Fun Pass before anything else. For $50 per cabin it would expedite your arrival even more and although we didn't have to wait long, these guys had NO waiting.

We packed WAY TOO MUCH. Like I had 5 more outfits that I could have worn, too much. Same with the boys, too much. Although we each only had one suitcase, we probably could have come with less. We wore our suits way more than we expected-imagine that, right! And I wore a couple pairs of pants multiple times too.

We packed a couple a touch lights that came in handy for the boys that we will totally be taking on our next cruise again. The one thing that is lacking in the cabin, outlets. I would either bring an extension cord to have a few more power outlets or a charging station of sorts so that Justin and I both could charge our phones and watches. Outside of that, I didn't feel as though we were missing anything--just had too much stuff.

Service & Cleanliness
The service was fantastic. From the waiters on the pool decks to the kid's activity leaders to the waiting staff at the dining hall--it was all SOOO great. When I was booking our reservation online it asked if we would be celebrating anything while we were with them and I stated yes, our 9th wedding anniversary which was St. Patrick's Day. So David,our cabin steward, presented us with a gift card to their spa on the ship and Luis, our head waiter, celebrated our anniversary with a special dessert. Everywhere we went the staff was full of smiles and always so friendly with boys. The ship was clean. The food was pretty darn good.

The Fun
We were on the Dream. The Dream had a waterpark facility, 4 slides & a kids splash zone. It had an arcade (where Justin and I both were determined to win a prize and never did). It had a mini-golf course. Multiple pools. Ocean Club. Guys Burger Joint. Sushi. AMAZING pizza. Nighttime family movies. Bingo. And lots of other things that we didn't even get to experience (mainly because the boys were exhausted and we had early morning starts) like the comedy club, karaoke, talent shows, performing shows, night clubs...

There was always something to be doing when we were on the ship. We never got bored.

The Cabin
We chose to get a balcony cabin this time. Justin and I had been on one cruise before and we stayed in a cabin with a port window at the back of the ship. Justin got seasick on the last two days and honestly didn't feel all that great the entire time, but those last two days he hardly came out of his room. This time we went for a balcony and although we didn't spend a ton of time out there, it made the room feel so much large. We could get some fresh air while we were getting ready. As we docked each morning at our ports we could watch the arrival. Was it huge, no but we didn't spend a ton of time in there either. Again, it was everything that we need. Best news, Justin didn't get seasick at all. Granted he had gotten a patch from his doctor prior to leaving which I am sure helped out tremendously but he was able to see where we were and what was going on and that did a lot for him too. The boys, never mentioned being on the water or feeling weird. They loved their bunk beds in the cabin and those beds provided so much more space for us. Each kiddo had their area and could kind of get out of each other's way when needed--and it was needed.

Would we book again?
Absolutely. In fact, we are looking at the calendar and the destinations and trying to figure out when we can take another trip. It honestly was one of the best vacations we as a family have been on. The boys loved everything about the trip. The boat. And everything on it. The port days. And everything we did while there. Logistically it was so very easy to book, to board, to depart. Yes, it maybe isn't the top of the line when it comes to cruise ships but what we saved with going with Carnival allowed us to do more with excursions & to cruise longer. And yes, it may not be Disney but Carnival totally caters to families too with their Dr. Seuss at the Sea theme, you even get to meet a few characters. So yes, I would totally book again and I wouldn't hesitate for one second when recommending Carnival to someone else. Honestly, if you are on the fence, book it, you won't regret it.

Friday, March 17, 2017

SB2017--At Sea & NINE

We would be spending day 6 & 7 at sea making our way back to port. Day 6 just happened to be Justin and I's 9th wedding anniversary, not to mention, St. Patrick's Day. We started the morning off just like every other morning with some breakfast, followed by some Dr. Suess trivia and then the kids took part in the St. Patrick's Day/Dr. Suess parade through the ship before settling in for a very memorable reading of Dr. Suess.

The ship had also organized a little scavenger hunt for the day--they had hid 12 St. Patrick's Day themed rubber ducks around the ship and you had to locate them. The boys loved looking for these guys all over the ship as we continued our day. I think we ended up finding 7 of the 12. 

We told the kids that since it was our anniversary that they would be spending some time at Ocean Club but that it was up to them if it would be in the morning or afternoon, they chose afternoon so we hit the slides for a little fun before having lunch and sending them on their way. 

This is one of the only pictures I had from the day--this is our NINE. 

The boys were obsessed with the burgers on the ship. They were on to something because they were certainly good. Kaden even ended the week by adding grilled onions to his burger. Logan stuck to his half of burger, plain with ketchup and instead of their regular fries, he wanted the crunchy ones. 

Once they headed off to Ocean's Club, Justin and I found a few lounge chairs and we relaxed. I may or may not have taken a short nap as he watched kid after kid, adult after adult, race by our chairs on the way to the slides because their feet were on fire from the walkway. Even through my nap, his giggle was making me giggle.

Dinner was extra special this evening because not only was it our anniversary but it was also our last "formal" night. Now formal to us means something quite different than it does to others. We ensured the boys had nice pants and a button up but we didn't worry about jackets. I wore a simple dress that I would wear to a summer wedding and called it good. We tried to get a few pictures on the back of the ship but it wasn't our best work--we could really use some help with our selfies.

The boys let Justin and I sit next to each other for dinner & Luis made sure to make it a memorable dinner with a wonderful anniversary treat. It may have been one of the most delicious chocolate tort cakes I have ever had.

Here's to hoping our 10th anniversary comes even close to topping #9!


Our final day at sea was kicked off with a Dr. Suess Breakfast. The boys would get to eat from a special Dr. Suess menu and would get a chance to meet a few characters--Cat in the Hat was at the top of their list.

Both boys' eyes were bigger than their stomachs but how could they not be. Horton's Cereal-Crusted French Toast, Truffula Tree Pancakes, Fox in Socks Steak and Eggs...what oh what would they choose.

Kaden decided to go with Green Eggs and Ham & the Horton's Cereal-Crusted French Toast. How could you not. & you better believe he ate every bit of that Fruit Loop covered french toast.

& Logan, well, at first he just wanted to get cereal and then I suggested that he order some of the Truffula Tree Pancakes. He obliged and in the end was thankful he did because he ATE the entire thing.

& of course they were pretty stoked to get to meet Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 & Thing 2 (again), and Sam I Am. I could look at Logan's face light up like this all day long.

After we were done with breakfast we put our suits on and headed to the deck. We thankfully found two chairs right be the water slides. Justin and I assumed our position and the boys were off.

They played their little hearts out for a good portion of the morning before requesting to do something else. The something else was none other than miniature golf, their favorite thing on the ship to do & since it was the last day, I couldn't say no. Justin held our chairs and I took the boys to enjoy their last 18 holes at sea. As we were waiting in line a kid about Kaden's age was behind us and going to play, we asked if he wanted to join us and he accepted. After 18 holes, Carter was their new buddy, I mean, he was 9 which was totally cool kid status.

All three boys managed to get a hole in one & as much as they loved playing miniature golf, they were getting hot and ready to head back to the pool area. Where they continued to go up and down the slides, over and over. Logan said he road the Drain Pipe 18 times---thinking that means he rode it the entire trip 18 times. Then again, as hot as it was, it wasn't all the busy and he certainly could have done all 18 that day.

We ate our usual lunch--this time Kaden even had grilled onions and cheese on his burger and was pleasantly surprised at how great it was. & then before I knew it, Logan was ready for a break and was lounging next to me. We were watching for dolphins---we didn't get to see any but Justin did when I stepped away for drinks.

He asked for another ice cream cone, I obliged but in the 10 minutes that I was gone, he had fallen asleep. Guess that just meant I had two ice cream cones to eat. As Logan slept, Justin rode the slides with Kaden, well the Drain Pipe which he will never ride again and then the racers, which he killed Kaden on but that is to be expected with the weight difference.

We didn't want our vacation to come to an end but we knew we were running out of time but we stayed as long as we could before needing to head back in to get ready for dinner. It was our last evening with Luis and we couldn't miss that. & finally, I was having a decent hair day! I love vacations for so many reasons but the one downside, my hair--it is a frizzy mess. Oh and our selfie-game needs some work but since I was having a good hair day, it would be a keeper.

Our final evening in the dining hall was pretty special. The staff not only pulled out all the stops when it came to dinner and drinks for the boys but they put on quiet the show too. They sang for us, they danced for us and even turned out the lights for a light show which the boys just dug. They were dancing in their seats, singing along with the music and enjoying life. So were we.

As dinner came to an end we thanked Luis & said our goodbyes to our new friend. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it is for him to leave his family and come to work on a cruise ship for months at a time. I just hope we were able to provide a sense of family for him during our time on the ship. The boys still talk about how much they miss Luis and how nice he was to them.

Adios, mi amigo.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

SB2017--Port Day #3 - Nassau, Bahamas

Our final port day had arrived and we were starting our day off even earlier than the day before as we had a 7:30 departure from the boat scheduled which was pretty much as soon as we docked. We got up and around, had some breakfast and then enjoyed the view as we pulled into port.

The boys were so amazed by how the captain was able to maneuver the boat. Frankly, so was I. We literally ported between two other large cruise ships and although I couldn't reach out and touch the other ship, it sure felt like I could.

The line to get off the ship on this particular morning was a little longer than previous days. We actually had to meet in the main theater since there were so many of us going to the same location--the Atlantis. You can head to the Atlantis and probably spend an entire day there just walking around seeing the sites and shopping but we knew the kids wanted to be near the beach and their aquatic park so we purchased full day passes to everything Atlantis. When we arrived at the Atlantis we were escorted to the aquatic area where we received out towels and then we were on our own. We located the kids area pretty quickly and claimed a couple chairs there so we could sit back, relax, enjoy a few cocktails all while watching the kiddos go round and round on the slides.

The kids area was perfect, their was a height limit and the stuck to it, thankfully Kaden wasn't too tall but if we go back next year, he may just be. To the left of this large waterpark thing was a large pool that was about 2.5 feet deep, perfect for the boys to play and play and play. 

Since it was a kids are the boys had to get out of the pool a couple of times to have the PH checked so when that time came we all jumped up and walked across the grounds to the Rapid Rivers. They were asking for the lazy river but since that was a much farther walk I just told them what we were going on was the lazy river with a few waves. They jumped on, Logan with me and Kaden with Justin. The water was a tad chilly and I got a nice ab workout from Logan sitting on my feet but my abs weren't the only thing hurting. My face hurt from smiling so much. Hearing the giggle and laugh and squeal in excitement was everything. I think we ended up going on this 3 other times-boys loved it.

We also took a break for lunch and after we were done eating I told the boys we could check out their beach. The waves in the Bahamas are a little more intense than what we had in St. Maarten but that didn't stop the boys, I just said they couldn't go out where the water was above their waist.

Our selfie game was lackluster at best.

We found our way back to our lounge chairs where Justin and I assumed our position and the kids went back to doing what they do best--burning energy. Sadly, about 20 minutes in they had everyone get out of the pool, a small kiddo had pooped in the pool & thus they closed it and after about an 45 minutes (we went back to the Rapid Rivers), we called it good.

On the way out we took the boys through the aquarium. We saw sea turtles.

We got to see sharks, stingrays, fish--it was pretty amazing.

And on the way out we stopped in front of this sculpture. Justin and I stood in this same spot about 10 years prior--newly engaged, me a lighter and he had more hair. We couldn't miss the opportunity to take a quick picture so we could compare the two and see just how much our life has changed and in all the best possible ways. Here we were with our 7 year old and 5 year old, or if you ask them, our 7 1/2 year old and almost 6 year old. A 7 1/2 year old that is about as tall as I am. In some ways it seems like so long ago but then time has flown by when it comes to these two growing up. 

We eventually wrapped our way around to the shuttle pick up and Logan climbed into Justin's arms as we waited for our turn to board. He was asleep before we even took off. This picture is everything to me.

We did a little shopping before boarding the ship again, a few trinkets for the boys & one last Kalik for Justin and then we found a very nice young woman to take our picture as a family in front of the ship.

It had been one extremely long day and we were all very tired. We had the best of intentions to make it to dinner that evening to see our dear Louis but once we all laid our heads on our pillows we were all out. Next thing we knew it was 6:50 and we had missed dinner, thank goodness for the buffet.

Two thumbs up for Nassau and the Atlantis, we will definitely be going back if we ever have another port day there.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

SB2017--Port Day #2 - Freeport, Grand Bahamas

We had arrived in Freeport, Grand Bahamas. It was chilly and I mean chilly, this was our beach day, our final excursion that we planned and we knew we had to give the kids some time at the beach. We went with it though. Up and off the ship by 8 and on our way to the beach. For this excursion we booked a family outing at the beach, the kids would get to enjoy some activity time with a cruise coordinator---face painting, sand castle building, races and so forth...

while Justin and I enjoyed some time at the beach in lounge chairs.

As we were sitting there enjoying our view, some local Bahamians came by with an iguana. You know I love lizards, I use to have one so when I saw this big guy, I knew I had to hold him. I grabbed the kids, fully knowing that Kaden would want nothing to do with it but think Logan just might be brave enough to hold it. I was mostly right, Kaden would not get any close than what the picture shows and Logan, well he was happy holding the tail.

And then he saw the parrot, he thought he might like to hold that one. I told him that I would take it first and then he could see but he decided that he was good, he'd have him sit on his shoulder. Although the bird's feet were a little sharp, he stood there long enough for a picture or two. This kid really does have a way with animals. 

The rest of the our morning there the boys spent running in and out of the water & playing in the sand. Like I said, it was chilly but the boys could care less, I spent the majority of the morning with my cover-up on and a towel over my legs. With about an hour left on the beach the clouds finally vanished from the sky and the sun started warming us up.

They were sad to leave the beach and as chilly as we thought it was at the beach, our ride home was so much worse. We got a double decker bus & of course we thought sitting on top would be a smart thing to do, well it was freezing. Logan thankfully was small enough to lay on my lap and cover up with a towel but damn was it cold. And even though we didn't have the most gorgeous weather, our time in Freeport, Grand Bahamas was pretty great, how could it not be with these three with me.

We returned back to our cabin, the boys changed and we headed for ice cream and a little fun in the arcade. Before we knew it we were moving again which meant it was time to clean up and head down for dinner. On this particular evening they had Thing 1 and Thing 2 available for pictures. as well as a few hats for the boys to wear. We didn't buy any formal pictures all week long, except for a few of these so the boys could have them in their room.