Cruising the South Pacific with Carnival
It’s that time of the year when winter is on her stubborn way out and the temperature is on the rise. The short bursts of sunshine between the persistent winter chill inspire the adventurer within and I can’t help but think, “where to next?”. I dream myself away to tropical islands, places where the faces are unfamiliar but welcoming. Towns that tell a story of the tribes and traditions of three thousand years. Plants, palm trees and purple petaled flowers foreign to the city dweller...remote destinations that stay with you long after you’ve left...
Then, an airborne toy train hits me upside the head, jolting me back to the reality of being a solo parent who probably just burned dinner.
The days of planning intrepid, last minute, ballsy holidays are a thing of the past and the entire notion of traveling has changed for me. If you're a parent, then it’s likely to have changed for you too. These are the days of overstuffed backpacks, car seats on the shoulder, portacots, travel strollers, massive first aid kits, and zero sleep on long haul flights.
Xavier is no stranger to travel. So far we’ve been blessed to visit friends and family in Perth, all over the US over two big trips, we’ve spent a week in Hawaii and have kept it low key for staycations in our own town. Sure he’s been introduced to lots of different travel situations, but like any kid, he can be super unpredictable. The added challenge of working through his language delay has had me second guessing all of my plans for us. Which is exhausting in itself, because the thought process looks like this:
I’m really stressed and depleted.
I think we need to take a short break.
But Xav may not be able to handle flying long distances.
He may not do well in an airport.
He may also tantrum in public and I can’t be stuffed with strangers diagnosing my kid with shit they know nothing about.
He may struggle to tell me if he’s feeling unwell in a foreign place.
(insert 500 more fears)
This is too stressful.
Just stay home and be stressed and exhausted without the world noticing.
Problem *not* solved.
I’m glad my thought train didn't stop there because it’s not like me to live from a place of fear.
Before Xavier came along, I was an avid fan of cruising. I’ve done lots of blog work in the past featuring my cruising adventures, and I always loved the thought of this mode of travel with children. So while I was looking at family friendly holiday destinations I couldn’t go past an ad that popped up for an 8 night south pacific cruise aboard Carnival Legend. (Thank you internet spy robots. It definitely worked on me).
It had been many moons since I travelled on a cruise with Carnival, so I was hesitant because I’m definitely more inclined to choose a different brand. But after checking out some reviews and chatting to people who have been on similar trips with Carnival, I realised this was exactly the kind of break I needed. No airports, no car seats, no portacots, no hotel bookings, no transfers, no hidden costs. No worries.
I’m sharing my experience because I’m passionate about traveling, and being a parent shouldn’t mean that you scare yourself out of the best things in life (like I almost did.)
Here are a few of the things that makes cruising with Carnival an ideal plan for your summer holidays.
1.No fuss accommodation
The research that I put into discovering the perfect hotel is something I love and hate in equal measure. I love staying in hotels, really really good hotels. But I hate having such high expectations, paying 5 star rates only to leave feeling unimpressed. One of the best parts about this cruise was our balcony suite. It was on the small side like most cruising cabins, but it was by no means claustrophobic. Lucky for us, we were upgraded to an extended balcony suite which meant we had a little more floor space outside. It had enough storage space for us to unpack all of our things, and hide our duffel bags under the queen bed. This was the second time I’ve cruised with a balcony and I can honestly say it boosted the accommodation element to new levels, especially if you're a sucker for ocean views at sunrise and sunset. We were so delighted by all the hand rolled towel animals that were left in the rooms by the crew! The light that poured into the room all day long was so inviting and helped clear my mental fog. I definitely recommend booking a suite with windows or balcony... “inside cabins” do not offer any natural light, which may be a turnoff to anxious travellers.
2. No need for car hire and lugging kids equipment between hotels and destinations
Living in a city that is a major cruise port is a blessing. Once you board, your floating resort takes you from place to place, meaning you unpack once. Xavier was still under 3 when we took this trip and still requires a travel stroller so that was the only bulky piece of equipment we needed. We were dropped off at the overseas passenger terminal in Sydney and from the moment Carnival staff met us curb side to check our bags, the entire experience was a breeze! In fact, you probably will never meet happier customs workers than the ones here in Sydney. Walking onto the ship had me feeling a little bit naked - at this stage in an airport I’d usually be carrying too much while pushing 5 times my bodyweight. Our bags went from curb side to our stateroom in the matter of an hour. The best part was when customs staff told us to “enjoy some lunch on deck 9 while your bags make way to your room”.... Yes ma’am!
3. Experience multiple destinations at a fraction of what it would cost to fly
This cruise cost me $799pp at a sale rate. I can tell you with absolute certainty that if I were to book the same itinerary using air and land travel as well as hotels and taxes, I would be spending nothing less than $6000. This is by far, my favourite thing about cruising. And it’s definitely an important thing to note when traveling with kids. I don't think I’d ever fly to 4 destinations in the space of 8 days with a kid in tow. If not for cruising, that kind of travel concept would go right out the window for me. I was super excited to take Xavier out to the islands, and just as happy seeing him splash in the pool on board.
4. Never worry about food and mealtimes
This is the part that everybody likes to talk about. In fact, my sister and her family took a long south pacific cruise with Carnival aboard Legend in 2016 over the New Year break. They were so blown away by the food options on board that we all heard about it for weeks afterward - and it was all true. While I’m no stranger to cruising, I was delightfully surprised by the vast array of options, and I’d cruise again with Carnival because of this. We would sleep in, order fruit plates to our room, nibble on lazy lunches by the pool and nap before dinner. There are a number of exclusions but the only thing I spent money on daily was espresso coffee at cafes, otherwise the many coffee and tea stations are still great! I recommend taking a keep cup for coffee as well as something insulated for your cold water when you plan on spending long hours on a sun bed. We also dined at Bonsai Sushi which was a delicious change from the usual dinner venue. We were lucky to be given complimentary anytime dining which meant we could arrive for dinner at a time that suited us. This was super helpful as it was difficult to gauge when Xavier would be hungry, sleepy, grumpy...or all of the above! The highlight - 24 hour pizza. And I can confirm that we enjoyed this option to the fullest!
5. Sea sickness doesn’t affect everybody, but be prepared and prevent it
If you’ve ever hesitated about cruising because of sea sickness, I can completely understand. I have been seasick during cruises before, but this is easily remedied by motion sickness tablets as well as essential oil blends like peppermint and lemon. I took my oil diffuser on board and diffused different blends each day. I highly recommend stocking up on some simple travel calm chewable tablets as these types of products can be quite expensive on board in comparison to your regular pharmacy. If it’s all new to you, I suggest taking them an hour before you board as a precaution.
6. Endless entertainment
From the moment we boarded, Xavier was in music heaven. He was always the first on the dance floor in any space there was music - in fact, this is what brought the crew’s attention to him. At the sail away deck party, the crew and entertainers put on one hell of a show, and of course, Xavier wanted to be right in the middle of it. For the rest of the week we experienced movies, shows, live bands, and endless hours poolside with our favourite snacks and drinks. Carnival Legend features water slides and loads of outdoor activities for all ages. Every day, a cruise itinerary and newsletter is delivered to your stateroom detailing everything that’s going on in different parts of the ship. It’s pretty much impossible to be bored, unless like me, you choose to opt out and take some much needed time to relax in the adults retreat.
7. Go in a group, or keep it intimate
I’ve cruised in large groups, with a partner, with my mother, and alone. Each time was a vastly different experience. Your cruise enjoyment is hinged on who you travel with, and what you want to get out of it. Whether it be a party crowd or a quiet break with your bestie, it’s all available on board with no extra effort by you! I took this trip for me, and for Xavier. I really needed some time to unpack some of my stress and let it go. It was such a joy to just let my toddler be himself and enjoy life. I brought Xavier’s favourite babysitter Gabbi along for the trip so that I had a second pair of hands to help when needed. This was the best thing I did for myself, and especially for Xavier. He had a familiar person to care for him while I had some time to unwind at the spa, or on a sun bed.
8. Kids club and babysitting services
As I was travelling with a nanny, I only used the on board babysitting service once and that was because Xavier had fallen asleep in his stroller. While Xavier was in care, we were given a mobile phone that worked anywhere on the ship, at no added cost. That added security was awesome, knowing that I would have a phone call right away if Xavier was unhappy or unsettled. During the day, we took a look around the age appropriate kids club and it was amazing! Think Octonauts meets Moana theming. The kids spaces are meticulously designed so that kids feel like they’re somewhere super fun, engaging and safe. When Xavier is older, I know he’ll have a blast...and when he wants his mum, I’ll only be a couple of decks and a phone call away!
9. Disconnect to reconnect
I made it a point to spend time alone every day. There are so many beautiful places on board to decompress, away from the bars, clubs and food venues. While I had every intention to switch off totally, I knew I would need some kind of data plan so that I could be in touch with Xaviers sitter if I needed it. Internet is one of the more expensive parts of cruise extras, but there are a couple of options for your preferred usage. You can even choose options for groups where you can message other passengers from within the Carnival app which is one of the best I’ve experienced. You can also keep track of spending, view weather conditions, mark events you don't want to miss, as well as set up a cruise countdown from within the app. They really have thought of everything!
10. Value for your hard earned dollar
Once you actually experience a cruise, you’ll understand it. This experience cost approximately 100 Australian dollars per day, with Xavier being cheaper as he was on a child’s fare. The fact that you don't have to pay for very much on board means that most of your holiday is covered long before you hop on the ship. Carnival offer some amazing deals if you have the flexibility of traveling outside of peak season. These are the times I prefer to travel as it’s quieter with big kids still in school.
Our first cruise as a little family was unforgettable and it definitely won’t be the last. Some time away from the noise of big city living, surrounded by endless ocean views was exactly what this tired mama needed.
This cruise was not a sponsored experience, but we were gifted with wonderful treats on board. So grateful to the crew for the amazing warmth, friendliness and patience. Can’t wait to sail again soon!