I had never been on a cruise before, always heard stories of others who had, but I have always kind of had a weird misconception of a "cruise ship tourist" and I didn't think I quite fit that mold.... at least yet....
My sister said the same thing: she heard this little saying: Cruise ships are for the newly wed, the overfed or nearly dead. (so messed up, I know!) Now before you get all offended, I do believe over the last few years, cruise ship marketing has really stepped up their game, and have been appealing to a younger, "cooler" crowd-- families with little one's, and even single young party people. And now that I have been on my first, I know that saying is super NOT true, and I'm like a full-fledged FAN of cruises!
Here's our story!
My boyfriend Jordan and I have been together for about 2 years now, but his family lives in Newbury Park California right outside Thousand Oaks. We live in Kona. So with the distance, we usually get together around my show schedule— like before or after my shows in California—but its truly never enough time!
This year was his parents Rick and Michelle’s 30th wedding anniversary, so they really wanted their two sons and their other halves (including Ikena) to join them on a week-long Carnival Cruise to spend some QT and celebrate their anniversary as a fam! So it was seven of us... Jordan's newly engaged brother Zack (an LA County Fire Fighter) and his fiancé Anna (an elementary school counselor), his dad Rick (retired construction owner with a love of ice cream) and mom Michelle (works for Parks Department of her city, loves dolphins and her puppy Milah) , my bf Jordan (pro Baseball player who just underwent labrum surgery, with a love of ice cream and knack for black jack), Ikena (5 year old going on 15, party animal who loves ice cream more than anyone combined, and fort nite dancing both in the game and in real life)... and then me... ;). Quite a group, parents and their grown adult kids, their other halves and one kid with a ton of energy.
The Browers' had been on two cruises prior, so they kinda knew the scoops, at least more than I did… But a lot of stuff we had to learn together for the first time…
The whole check-in process is pretty involved... and that was probably the only "junky" thing about the whole cruise. Waiting. Especially after 14 hours of traveling on an airplane and uber, but it really wasn't even that bad. We showed up very early and were. able to hang out in an air conditioned like reception area for a couple hours while they called all the numbers and zones of people to board. Just like an airline, you can pay or earn your way to a higher "status" so you get to board first and stuff. I was luckily able to pass out on my bf's shoulder and be woken up when it was our turn. Time flew ;)
Here are a few lessons I learned:
1. When traveling from Hawaii to East Coast, I would try and give yourself an extra day to kinda acclimate to the time zone a little bit. We landed in Miami after a long full day and night of traveling from Kona… red eye flights and short naps in uncomfortable airplane seats all the way across the world. If I could re-do it and we had more time, we would have stayed one night in a hotel in Miami before jumping on board. It literally took like 2-3 days for us to catch up on sleep from the red-eye and get to a place where we felt “normal” with other passengers. We were always last awake in the morning and last to bed at night, when most activities for kids were closed!
2. If you’re cruise is traveling out of the country, you either need to get an international phone plan for ALL the countries you’ll visit (some can be included in a multi-country plan) … otherwise you are limited to the ship’s wifi or wifi you might find at a bar or hotel when you’re venturing out. I personally really needed my wifi to check emails and social media (yes its part of my job!) So I paid the $115 or so for wifi for the whole week for my phone. It wasn’t very strong, and really bad in my cabin. I could have gotten it cheaper if I paid BEFORE embarking out of Miami. They have these weird deals where you have to buy stuff before you leave, like from your computer at home. I didn’t make any phone calls, just wifi for email and social media, and that was fine for me. Communication between us as a family had to be super old-school— verbally setting a time to meet like for dinner or adventures. But of course that style can be a little rough when you have a kid, and we’re all insanely tired, or something comes up and plans change or we running a little late, so that lack of ability for last-minute communication was slightly rough.
There is like an app that everyone could have downloaded where you can message one another within your group, set up dinner times, and see what activities are happening on board. Its kinda cool! But again, sometimes spotty.
3. Everything goes by SHIP TIME… so the time at the port of embarkation. We embarked from Miami, so no matter what time it was in Belize or Cozumel Mexico, we always had to go by SHIP TIME which can be 1-2 hours before regular time. So that’s why you hear of those stories where people are getting left behind at ports, and you’re like how could they be so late!?? But that’s probably because they were going by the local. time. We gotta be back on the ship by 4pm? (looks at clock on the bar wall) Oh its only 2 o clock ! We got plenty of time for another margarita! Then you stroll up to the dock as you see your ship floating away into the sunset… with all your stuff in your room… (and sometimes your family) on board! Totally happened… thank God not to us tho! ;)
4. Cruise ships are awesome for kids, too! Our ship had some really cool stuff for little one's. It had 2 waterslides, a ropes course, mini golf, basketball court, a couple of pools and hot tubs, a little kids like “casino” (like a fun factory) and an activity day camp where you can drop your kid off to be supervised with other kids while you the parents can do what you want. There’s even a late-night option called “Night Owls” (we thought that was funny) where you can pay a little bit and have your kid babysat from like 1030-130am.
Overall I would absolutely do another cruise with the fam! Now that I know the ropes a little bit, I know how we can do it even better next time. The amount of locations you cover in a week’s time is unbeatable, and it really forces you to spend QT with your family. Dinner together (restaurant style) every single night for a week? Where no one has to cook or wash ANY dishes or make a bed, and you can really just enjoy each other’s company… its really awesome.
Big Mahalo to Papa Rick and Mama Brower (aunty Michele) for inviting us on that awesome inaugural voyage, which will hopefully turn into an annual or alternating annual tradition!
You have any more questions about my Carnival Cruise experience, please comment below and ask!