Family Cruising Basics

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The Family Cruising Basics in my mind are something that most just do naturally and do not realize. I like to get the most out of all of our vacations, and while not everyone is a planner, it does pay to do your homework before you hit CONFIRM on that cruise you are considering.
Long before we set sail with the kids on our cruise vacations, I begin planning what the kids will do, or at least looking at possible options for each age group.
Family Cruising Basics is probably another form of bucketlist for things to do when cruising.

Cruising as a family, with tweens, teens and adults is a challenge after all, swaying hormones, coupled with over-stimulation and lack of sleep creates fun on mega ships but can lead to meltdowns.
Being an experienced cruiser, I know that fun just happens, but tucking in a few ‘extras’ always helps and it gets the kids moving in the morning! Lavishly live family cruising basics out loud and prepare to hit the high seas with fun travel.

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Setting Expectations

What better way to challenge myself than step onto a Mega Cruise Ship and set sails to the high seas with 2 teens and a tween? I accepted my challenge and just trusted in what I had already learned on all of our previous cruises:  Fun just happens.

Before the fun could happen, I made sure the kids were aware that we were going to go through a Muster Drill and they had to pay attention.  Once we went through the drill, and they listened and learned, our non-stop week long party could begin.

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Even with teens it is important that they understand that there will be a set of rules ahead of the fun, and my kids were receptive. Had I not explained that you just don’t check in and start the party, there might have been a little rift of upset which is natural for kids at this age.

After we managed to check in, grab lunch, attend the safety drill (muster), purchase our drink plans, plan out when to eat dinner, walk around the ship a bit and sail away, it was time to get the kids settled and imagine we did all this in under 3 hours so far!

Take A Family Stroll Through The Ship

I know cruising is all about the adventure, but in my world, preparedness and understanding your surroundings is part of the adventure.  We all took a walk, all over the ship, to settle in, to grab drinks, to see what all our adventure had in store for us.  This little walk (actually huge walk) set up expectations of what they might be able to do and where! Shows, pools, tracks, golfing, eating and arcades all led the path to fun and let them think about what they wanted to do next!

Planning for the Family Basics Of Cruising

I drive my husband nuts because I go, go, go, but I have to get everything in order before I can relax and the last thing on my To Do List was to organize the kids. Learning my options is a big part of calming down and relaxing so naturally I took my youngest and attended the Youth Program Orientation on the ship.

What ended up happening is the two ‘older’ teens suddenly wanted to join in with their groups, because the CLUBS are where the action is at for their age group and it takes the stress off of parenting while vacationing!

Kids, Clubs and Cruising 

Before we ever got to the cruise I had filled papers out online so I could take my youngest son to the club and get him to enjoy the cruise as well.  My youngest and I headed for the lounge while my husband, the other 2 kids and my father-in-law roamed a bit more and then also arrived to the quick meeting.

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Eventually the rest of my family met up with us while watching their sibling win a dance off! At the same time they could not believe that this silly kid just started taking part on the very catchy party atmosphere without a second thought! I’ll share a photo from this below!

Where To Find The Scoop

We walked in to the Liquid Lounge on the ship, turned in his forms and found out, that when he was in camp, because he had so many allergies, we would be given a ship phone that would call to us in case of emergency which made me relax! We listened to the Youth Leaders each speak and I knew my kids were gonna have a blast, unfortunately, with two teens, getting them to see the fun they could potentially have was a bit harder as you all know!

First we listened to a quick overview of what they had available to the kids and when the Youth programs were open, and then the kids were asked to get up and be the craziest dancer to win a prize, of course my son went running from our seats (he is me with the personality trust me!) on the side to the middle aisle and shook, shook, shook to WIN!

Teen Worthy

My teen daughter was just rolling her eyes when I had started taking pictures of my son, mortified I would even pull a camera out and then more mortified because it was her family acting cray cray- you know typical Teen stuff, that does not even phase parents.

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We were off to a great start and he was most excited to find out that he would be able to retreat to a ‘camp’ with a bunch of other kids his age and play Wii, PlayStation, Scavenger Hunts, and more while we were cruising! Here’s his cool bag that he won for being a crazy dancer!

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While you are on the Cruise Ships there are many programs and shows that are informative and helpful from shopping to how to enroll your kids in camp to future cruising, each show lasts about 1/2 hour and will help you in some part of your trip. Learning is power, so I always attend, because an informed Cruiser gets the most out of their trip! With that in mind, I headed right to this particular show/introduction!

Getting The Older Kids Involved

Now, my two other kids were a bit tougher of a sell, and why I had to even try I don’t know. Jessica and Jo-Jo had taken the microphone, introduced themselves and had me captivated, they were cool, funny and really upbeat, so you knew their clubs were going to be fun. I just let the two older kids listen and decided to revisit the clubs later tonight after we had eaten.

I heard all the protests from both of them: a)I won’t know the other kids, b) we are not babies we don’t need to go to camp, c) we came on this vacation to be a family we are not leaving your side, d) we will be just fine sitting by the pool, etc . etc. etc and my husband and I just let the words flow in one ear and out to sea through the other!

Movie Time

We headed back to our room to get ready for our first meal in the dining room. After dinner, my kids expressed the want to go to the first ‘Dive-In‘ Movie, and I agreed. Later, during the movie, my husband took our youngest son for a walk to the Sports Court, while I took a very, upset-with-her-Mom Teen to her Club.

I had stopped past the Club while on my way to the Lido Deck to find my kids and Jo Jo told me that it was important for her to come tonight, as all the kids were bonding and getting to know one another, so I did what any good mom would do, took my daughter to the club.

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When we got there my daughter was still having her own personal tantrum about going to camp,  I just walked away…….. I might add, after this, the only words we heard from our daughter each time we were on the ship, at dinner, etc., was, ‘Club has this tonight’ or  ‘is it fine if I go?’  Oh yeah, our cruise ship Rocked the Teen Scene. Dancing, chatting, games, cards, games that allowed the kids to bond quickly and more led the way for a great time in the Club side.

How To Communicate With Your Family While Teen

Parents, here is a bonus, what the kids don’t have on the cruise…. texting, email and phones because most parents are not opting to pay for the WiFi so suddenly kids that are ultra addicted to a virtual life become tossed into a world that they actually have to communicate verbally rather than with their digits! Woot Woot!

Communication becomes important and the cabin phones actually ring, the landline(cabin phone) becomes a prime source of, “I’ll meet you at X time in Club O2” The kids would literally crave the camp time.

The Youth Programs are housed at the back of the ship, on Level 10, and can be accessed by the outside or the inside. This is important to know because if the ship starts rocking from waves, or it is raining, or really blustery, you don’t want your kids walking the decks.

The kids and you can access these from elevators in the back of the ship, from the Lido Deck, or from the Havana Bar Area Stairs(located by the Lido Marketplace). Additionally, when the kids come down to eat, they are one flight away from the food!

Each night, around 12P we would go to collect our youngest son and bring him back to the room, leaving his older brother and sister in their respective programs. It was funny, we would leave our room on Level 8, walk the back steps to Level 10, get our son and head to Level 9 for the midnight stack. We had the same routine every night.

Getting Your Midnight Snack On 

On the second night the kids in the clubs started heading down to the Teen Marketplace for snacks, so we saw all of our kids in their groups and they were talking, walking, laughing and having a blast! We were so happy for them.

My oldest son and his friends all pounded the buffet loaded with hot dogs, all the toppings, Buffalo Chicken Sliders, Ham and Cheese Sandwiches and brownies, you know boy food!

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Our youngest was happy because he had had plenty of time in the program as well, and his personal time with us was his special time with ‘Mom and Dad’. The dining room offered Pizza, and plenty of Allergen Friendly Dining, which we had nightly as it was a food my son could have with no allergens in it for his particular dining allergies, and we often had fruit and drinks!

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Don’t Plan On Getting Your Older Kids Back!

My saw my daughter with her friends have some desserts and coffee one night and other nights they would have pizza parties. Now my daughter and her friends would often head to the Lido Deck where our outstanding, Cruise Director had some kicking dance parties. Here is one where my daughter is dancing (Click Here)away, loving it and the smile tells me all I need to know! Better yet, she did not know we were watching her till it was over, LOL! This means, the kids had a blast!

Sometimes I would take the back steps to get to my favorite lounge chairs for the sun at the end of the day, and I would see parents stopping and looking in, asking when they could get into the party, because you see, music was thumping, people were buzzing and laughing and talking were ALWAYS going on in those rooms, so naturally people thought it was for adults….. but it was for the kids.

My daughter learned line dances and this translated to dancing on the LIDO with Jaime Dee, who was incredibly awesome. My son and daughter both told me that when Jaime Dee visited them in camp it was like a rockstar was visited and they just listened to her every word! She is pretty awesome.

Clubbing & Sports

My oldest son was a bit hesitant to go, but I did not listen, I took him to the door and Jessica asked me his name and said, “goodbye” and that was that. From the moment he found PlayStation, girls of his own age and guys, he was fine.

The boys often went up to the Sports Court and played Ping Pong, Basketball, Dodge-ball and more. Jessica moderated all the games, and then she made sure they always had food and drink, you know those things most coveted by growing teens!

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For us, this was even a more personal experience, as our son really wanted to hang out in the club, and suddenly as they would leave the club, we would see this girl following him around the ship, all over the place.

If he went down the steps, she went down the steps, if he went to the club, she went to the club, it was ‘puppy love’ and it was so funny to watch! We non-stop razzed my son about it and he was such a sport, he took it all in stride! When he got his shirt signed at the end, all the girls wrote their phone numbers on his shirt(ah blush).

You might say, that you are on vacation to be with your family, but I will say this to you, if your whole family is not having fun and you are the only one enjoying it, it is not a FUN time for all! What makes a vacation fun is when everyone’s needs are met. Kids are kids and who the heck wants to be toted to shows, and dinners, when the kids know the pool is waiting for them and there are movies.

Family Cruising Basics

As adults we want to indulge in those shows, some alcohol (since we are not driving) and of course time with well spent with our partners! Carnival gets it, and they help you without making it crazy, outrageous and impossible. The answer is at the door of the Clubs it runs for the kids.

The most reaffirming moment however is not what you get to do with your partner, or what your kids get to do with other kids, it’s when the kids are in the middle of a hallway, being mouthy to you, or going off about what they don’t want to do, and suddenly their fellow clubbers walk on by and say, “Hey Kallie how are you, are you headed up to the club after you eat with your family?”

Friendship Anchors The Kids

It’s that moment when your kid just stops, and suddenly realizes that your request of a quick bite on the Lido Deck Marketplace is not the end of the world, rather the pass they need to get to their friends. Another small piece goodness that happens for your family: Your kids realize they can make friends with other kids, that kids are kids all over the world and friends just happen, suddenly they see that life is good and people are around.

The big ship, brings people together and the moments they spend together bond them, it is that simple.

My kids had friends all over the ship, we met many of the kids parents and all the kids just did their thing. No matter what the kids were doing it was not about being first in line, rather it was about being with friends on the ship and going to things together.


The Clubs brought the kids to the dances, shows, to meals, it was a way for the kids to enjoy their vacation with kids of their own age and then appreciate the moments we all were actually together. The Clubs for the kids, tweens and teens offered a bit a unleashed freedom, that in reality had boundaries but the kids felt free, even though they were constantly being watched! This is how we lavishly lived life on Board a Mega ship, playing, watching shows, enjoying a bit of freedom, yet knowing our kids were having fun and being watched!

We were provided accommodations by Carnival Sunshine, all opinions, images and stories are my own. What story will your vacation tell? Cruise Carnival to have a great time!

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