We love cruises. Christa has have been on Royal Caribbean to the Bahahmas, Premiere Cruise Line to the Bahamas,   Four Carnival Cruises to Cozumel and Jamaica, and a Costa Cruise to the Mediterranean  (Italy, France, Spain, and Africa). Corrin has been on all of the same cruises except she didn’t go on the Costa Cruise, but she and Dave went on a Norwegian Christmas cruise out of New Orleans that went to Roatan, Honduras, Belize, and Cozumel.

Christa’s favorite cruise was definitely the Costa Cruise because of the cool ports of call.  The best food was found on the Royal Carribean.  Hands down for families, though, is the Carnival cruise.  

Why we love cruises:
1. They are easy:  You get to travel to different places but don’t  have to pack and unpack.  If you have a jam packed day, you can return to the ship and have a nice meal in the dining room.  
2.  They can be economical:  A majority of your vacation is included in the price (food, entertainment, and lodging).  You do pay tips per person but we feel that it is a lot cheaper than tipping everyone throughout the cruise.  If you go during non-peak times, you can get a cruise for a steal.  

3. You can be as busy or relaxed as you want.  You can decide to do no activities, no shore excursions, and chill the entire time or you can sign up for everything and have every second of your day booked with something to do.  When Corrin and Dave took the Christmas cruise, she was about 8 weeks pregnant. All Corrin wanted to do was to stay in their cabin and sleep. 

4.  They are social.  You meet lots of new people and they are a great source of fun. Cruise lines have come a long way and have something for everyone. 

5. You get to dress up.
6. The variety allows everyone to do their own thing and then meet up for dinner and a night of fun. If you are a laid back vactioner, you can go with friends who like to jam pack activities because you can always individualize on board activities and meet up later on.

7. The comedy shows are hilarious, even the family friendly ones. 

Why Carnival for your family?
We have 8 kids combined (17 months, 18 months, 5, 6, 12, 12, 14, and 16).  Carnival has activities geared for all different ages.  

Our two families are looking at booking a week long Carnival cruise out of Galveston sometime during the summer. The primary reason for seriously considering taking another Carnival cruise was that Carnival has something for every one of our kids. 

Most of the other cruise lines offer children’s programs for three year olds and older.  CARNIVAL OFFERS IT AT TWO!!!!  This is a huge selling point for a family with a two year old. Charlotte and Finlry will be having a blast in Camp Carnival while we enjoy doing things that are not geared for two year olds (laying out at the pool, playing bingo).

Carnival has completely revamped their kids program. They are transitioning it from Camp Carnival to Camp Ocean.  Cruise Critic says that they want it to be more like a camp than a daycare with education and fun as the priority.  I love that they have a badge program (like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts) where kids participate in a wide variety of activities over the course of the cruise to earn badges.  

The Carnival Freedom, the cruise we are looking at, was the first ship to introduce the new program. They have partnered up with Hasbro and offer a game show for the older kids and A Dr. Seuss character breakfast similar to something you would find at Disney (It is only $5.00) 

This is from Carnivals website: 
CAMP OCEAN
When families cruise Carnival, even the smallest fish in the pond have a big, awesome time. Okay, so it’s actually way more than just a pond — it’s Camp Ocean. At Camp Ocean, 2–11 year-olds stay busy, keep active and have fun as they enjoy all new ocean-themed activities. We put campers into supervised, age-based groups… and give each a cool marine-life label that’s sure to raise the sails on camaraderie at sea. The littlest little ones — ages 2 to 5 — join the Penguin colony and engage in activities like Musical Icebergs and Ocean Bingo… even learning a thing or two about buoyancy! The little-biggers, 6 to 8, are the way-cool Stingrays, who might be found enjoying Pirate Game Night, making sea salt art or even designing their own aquarium. The big fish are the Sharks — ages 9 to 11 — who really sink their teeth into playing Marine Life Trivia, creating a giant ocean mural, and scoring big with sea-themed volleyball or soccer.

Cruise critic has a fabulous write up about how Carnival has revamped their program.  If you have gone on Carnival in the past and have kids 11 and under, check out the write up.  You will be very impressed!  

http://www.cruisecritic.com/blog/index.php/2014/07/14/a-closer-look-5-things-to-know-about-carnivals-new-kids-program-camp-ocean/

We (husbands, kids) went on a Carnival cruise about four years ago. Sophia was an infant and cried the entire time. If you have a hard baby, I would not take them on a cruise.  The cabin next to Corrin kept knocking on the wall because Sophia cried so much, but Isabella was three and had a blast at Camp Canival.  Will and Abbey were eight so they also had a blast at Camp Carnival and so did Allison (ten). Paige was twelve and did participate in some teen activities.  

We are excited because it looks like Carnival has also stepped up their game for 12-17 year olds.  They have a room where kids who like gaming can do it together.  This is an activity that my 12 year old son will be thrilled about.

Corrin always jokes that she prefers mountain vacation as opposed to beach vacations, but cruises provide so many extras that you can still have a great time if you aren’t a “beach” vacationer. 

No matter what cruise line you decide to take, make sure you do your research. The cruise industry has taken a beating in the past few years, but there are desks to be had. Corrin was not a huge fan of Norwegian Cruises because they had “freestyle” cruising. This meant that unlike the traditional cruise lines that place strangers at the same table, people on Norwegian Cruises dine as they please and sit by themselves or with new people. 

Question for you:  Who is ready to take their family on a cruise? 
Here are a few pictures of the Carnival Freedom.

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