The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Family Cruise Vacation
Looking for an incredible family vacation that everyone will enjoy? Look no further than a family cruise. Our family of five recently set sail on the Carnival Dream for a seven-day adventure that we’ll never forget. From exploring ancient ruins to trying local tequila, and ziplining through the jungle, we experienced the perfect mix of excitement and relaxation. In this blog post, we’ll share all the details of our trip, along with some tips for cruising that we found helpful. Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or planning your first family cruise, our experience will inspire you to plan your next unforgettable vacation. Get ready to set sail with us and discover the magic of a family cruise.
Choosing a Cruise
When it comes to choosing a cruise, there are a few things to consider. First, think about the type of experience you want to have – do you want a family-friendly cruise with lots of activities and amenities, or a more relaxed cruise with a focus on relaxation and downtime? Second, consider the itinerary – where do you want to go and what do you want to see? Finally, think about your budget and any special requirements you might have (such as accessibility needs).
For our family, the Carnival Dream was a perfect choice. With plenty of family-friendly amenities and activities, we knew there would be something for everyone. And with stops in Costa Maya, Cozumel, and Belize, we were excited to explore some incredible destinations.
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We have a downloadable checklist on this page you can use once you are ready to start packing.
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Tips for Cruising
Before we dive into the details of our trip, here are some tips for cruising that we found helpful:
Stay organized – With so many activities and events happening on board, it’s easy to lose track of time and miss something you really wanted to do. We recommend using a smartphone app or daily planner to keep track of your schedule and stay organized.
Book excursions through the cruise line – When planning activities in each port of call, it’s usually best to book excursions through the cruise line. This ensures that you’ll have a guaranteed way to get back to the ship on time and also ensures that the tour operators have been vetted by the cruise line.
Pack a small day bag – When going on excursions, it’s helpful to pack a small day bag with essentials like sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a water bottle. This way, you can easily carry your things around without lugging your entire luggage with you.
This one went with us everywhere it was a must-have, especially for rain, and cave tubing.
Take advantage of onboard activities – Cruise ships offer a ton of activities on board, from cooking classes to dance parties to trivia contests, shows, and even comedians. Make sure to check the daily schedule and take advantage of these activities to make the most of your cruise experience.
Use a travel agent – If you’re new to cruising or unsure about planning the details of your trip, consider using a travel agent who specializes in cruises. They can help you find the best deals, choose the right ship and itinerary, and answer any questions you might have. Most cruise ships offer several different deals depending on how booked a ship may be.
Exploring Costa Maya
Our first port of call was Costa Maya, where we had an amazing time exploring ancient pyramids and ruins at the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins. It was incredible to imagine what life was like for the Mayans who lived there centuries ago. We learned so much about the history of the area from our guide, who shared interesting facts about Mayan culture and traditions.
After our tour of the ruins, we had some free time to explore the port area. There were plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars to check out, as well as a beautiful beach. We enjoyed some local food and drinks and even did a bit of shopping for souvenirs.
Trying Local Tequila in Cozumel
Our next stop was Cozumel, where we visited a tequila factory and got to sample some of the local tequila. It was a fun and delicious experience, and we even got to learn about the process of making tequila. The factory tour was informative and interesting, and we saw firsthand how agave plants are harvested and processed to make tequila.
After the tequila factory, we headed to the Beach, where we spent the day swimming and playing in the waters, and lounging on the white sand beach. The Beach was beautiful, with the only downside being lots of seaweed in the way of crystal-clear water. We did have plenty of space to relax. There were also some water activities available, like paddleboarding and snorkeling, for those who wanted to be more active.
Bring sunscreen – When spending time on the beach or in the water, it’s important to protect your skin from the sun. Bring plenty of sunscreens and reapply often to avoid getting burned.
Don’t be afraid to wear sun hats or bucket hats – This will help keep the sun off your head and shoulders. We found these to be useful and fun. Check out this link to find some great options on Amazon.
Bring a couple of pairs of sunglasses – Sunglasses will help on the boat and off the boat, we recommend something to help hold them on your head like since it can be windy, especially on the boat. Another good idea is to bring more than one pair. You can take the cheap pair on excursions where you could lose your good glasses.
Pack a beach bag – When heading to the beach, pack a bag with essentials like towels, a change of clothes, and snacks. You’ll be more comfortable if you have everything you need on hand. This one went with us everywhere
Book a shore excursion – While spending time at the beach is a great way to relax, consider booking a shore excursion to see more of the local area and learn about the culture and history of the region.
Ziplining and Cave Tubing in Belize
On our third day, we arrived in Belize and had the most exciting adventure of our trip. We went cave tubing and ziplining, and it was an experience we’ll never forget.
The cave tubing was a unique and memorable experience – floating down a river through a series of caves with headlamps to see the incredible rock formations and underwater caverns. It was an otherworldly experience, and we felt like we were in a different world altogether. The water was cool and refreshing, and we even saw some wildlife like bats and fish, spiders, and even leaf-cutter ants on the walk.
After the cave tubing, we headed to the zipline course. Ziplining through the jungle was a thrilling way to experience the beauty of Belize from above. The views were breathtaking, and we felt a rush of adrenaline as we flew through the air. The course had several ziplines of varying lengths and heights, and we felt safe and secure with knowledgeable and experienced guides.
Wear appropriate clothing – When going on adventure excursions like ziplining and cave tubing, make sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Avoid sandals or flip-flops, and wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty.
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Bring a waterproof camera – You’ll want to capture the amazing scenery and experiences on your adventure excursions, so bring a waterproof camera or case to protect your electronics.
We like our DJI action, we also got an extra waterproof housing just in case. Several other great action cams exist, as well as waterproof cases for cameras and phones.
Listen to your guides – Your guides will be knowledgeable about the area and the activities, so make sure to listen to their instructions and follow their advice to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Enjoying the Amenities on the Carnival Dream
When we weren’t exploring the ports, we spent time on the ship enjoying all the amenities it had to offer. The WaterWorks water park, SportsSquare, mini-golf, and basketball were just a few of the highlights. There were also plenty of options for dining and entertainment, from Guy’s Burger Joint to the Alchemy Bar.
Take advantage of the kids’ clubs – If you’re traveling with kids, make sure to take advantage of the kids’ clubs on board. They offer a variety of activities and entertainment for kids of all ages, and it’s a great way for parents to have some alone time.
Try new foods – Cruise ships often offer a variety of dining options, from buffet-style meals to fine-dining restaurants. Don’t be afraid to try something new – you might discover a new favorite dish!
Relax and enjoy – One of the best things about cruising is the opportunity o relax and enjoy your vacation. Take advantage of the amenities and activities on board, but also don’t forget to take some downtime and just enjoy the view from the deck.
Packing for a Cruise
When it comes to packing for a cruise, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, check with the cruise line for any dress code requirements for formal nights or other events. Second, consider the activities you’ll be doing and pack accordingly. Finally, be mindful of the limited space in your cabin and pack efficiently.
Here are some items we recommend packing for a cruise:
Power strip with no surge protection – Cruise ship cabins usually have limited outlets, so bringing a power strip can be a lifesaver for charging all your devices. We like this one because it also has a USB for a phone.
Pack Sunscreen – This should be given, if you are flying this needs to go in a checked bag, if you are worried about this, it is going to save money buying it in town before leaving. The cruise ship prices are very high.
Bring Hats, don’t be afraid to bring a bucket hat. – This will help keep the sun off your head and shoulders.
Pack Sunglasses – as we mentioned before these are important try to grab them ahead of time here, the nice thing is you can usually find a fairly inexpensive pair in the ports.
Pack a beach bag – When heading to the beach, pack a bag with essentials like towels, a change of clothes, and snacks. You’ll be more comfortable if you have everything you need on hand. Like the one we mentioned above a water-tight bag is a must.
Walkie-talkies – If you’re traveling with a large group or family, walkie-talkies can be a convenient way to stay in touch on board.
Waterproof phone case – Protect your phone from water damage with a waterproof phone case, especially if you’re taking photos by the pool or going on water-based excursions.
Reusable water bottle – Staying hydrated is important on a cruise, and a reusable water bottle can save you money and reduce waste.
Motion sickness remedies – If you’re prone to seasickness, pack remedies like ginger candy or wristbands to alleviate symptoms.
Documenting Your Memories
Capturing the memories of your family cruise is essential, as you’ll want to look back on the fantastic experiences you shared together. Here are a few tips for documenting your trip:
Take plenty of photos and videos – Capture the beautiful scenery, fun activities, and special moments throughout your trip. Don’t forget to get some group photos of the entire family as well. We find waterproof cameras such as action cameras do best.
Keep a travel journal – Encourage each family member to write down their thoughts, feelings, and favorite moments of the trip. This can be a great way to remember the smaller details that might be forgotten over time.
Collect souvenirs – Pick up small mementos from each port of call or memorable excursion. These items can serve as reminders of the unique experiences you had at each destination.
Create a photo album or scrapbook – Once you return home, compile your photos, souvenirs, and journal entries into a physical or digital album. This will be a cherished keepsake that your family can look back on for years to come.
Share your experiences – Write a blog post, create a video, or post on social media about your family cruise. Sharing your experiences can inspire other families to embark on their own cruise vacations.
Money saving Tips
Taking a family cruise doesn’t have to break the bank. With some careful planning and strategic choices, you can save money and still have a fantastic vacation. Here are some tips to help you cut costs on your next family cruise:
Book early or late – Booking your cruise well in advance can help you secure the best deals and the widest range of cabin options. Alternatively, last-minute bookings can also result in significant savings, as cruise lines often offer discounted rates to fill unsold cabins. However, this may limit your choices in terms of cabin types and itineraries.
Choose your travel dates wisely – Cruising during the off-peak season, such as in the fall or early spring, can result in lower fares and fewer crowds. Avoiding holiday periods and school vacations may also help you find better deals.
Use a travel agent – Working with a travel agent who specializes in cruises can help you find the best deals, promotions, and discounts. They have access to exclusive offers and may be able to secure additional perks such as onboard credit or cabin upgrades.
Compare airfare prices – If your cruise requires air travel, start searching for flights as soon as you book your cruise. Be flexible with your travel dates and use comparison websites to find the best deals on airfare. Booking flights directly with the airline or using rewards points can also save you money.
Look for package deals – Some cruise lines offer all-inclusive packages that bundle the cost of the cruise, airfare, and even excursions. These deals can save you money and make the booking process more straightforward.
Opt for an interior cabin – While balcony cabins and suites offer more space and better views, interior cabins are typically more affordable. If you plan to spend most of your time enjoying the ship’s amenities and excursions, an interior cabin may be all you need.
Take advantage of onboard discounts – Cruise lines often offer discounts on spa treatments, specialty dining, and even shore excursions when booked on specific days or times. Keep an eye out for these promotions and take advantage of the savings.
Bring your own snacks and drinks – While most meals are included in your cruise fare, snacks, and drinks can add up quickly. Pack your own snacks, reusable water bottles, and refillable drink containers to save money on these extras.
Consider independent shore excursions – Booking shore excursions through the cruise line can be convenient, but it’s often more expensive than booking directly with local tour operators. Research and book your excursions independently to save money, but be aware of the potential risks and make sure to plan your return to the ship carefully.
Set a budget – Determine a daily spending budget for your family and stick to it. This can help you avoid overspending on souvenirs, specialty dining, and other onboard expenses.
By following these money-saving tips, you can enjoy a memorable family cruise vacation without breaking the bank. Just remember to plan carefully, be flexible, and make strategic choices to get the most value for your money.
Safety Tips for Cruising
While cruises are generally safe and enjoyable, it’s essential to be prepared and take necessary precautions to ensure a smooth sailing experience:
Attend the muster drill – The muster drill is a mandatory safety briefing at the beginning of your cruise. Make sure your entire family attends and pays close attention to the instructions.
Be mindful of your surroundings – Keep an eye on your belongings and stay aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas on the ship and during port visits. We like to use Travel Wallets so we have them in a safe spot, we do not bring these into most ports. A money belt is also a great way to help keep some important items safe.
Use the ship’s safe – Store your valuables and important documents in the safe provided in your cabin.
Follow the ship’s rules – Abide by the cruise ship’s rules and guidelines, such as following pool safety guidelines and respecting designated smoking areas.
Stay together – Encourage your family members to stay together or use a buddy system, especially when exploring ports or participating in excursions.
A family cruise can be an unforgettable vacation that creates lasting memories for your loved ones. By choosing the right cruise, planning your activities, and following the tips we’ve provided, your family will be well-prepared for an amazing adventure. So go ahead and book that dream cruise, and get ready to set sail on a journey you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
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