You have almost made it on your cruise! In part 1 we covered booking a cruise, and in part 2 we covered everything you need to know before you leave including an all inclusive packing list.
Now, onto the cruise activities both on ship and on shore.
Book Shore Excursions on Shore
The most important thing to note on shore excursions is that booking through the cruise will cost you at least double in domestic ports and up to 4 times more in foreign ports (foreign ports are all way cheaper and prices are negotiable always). I will go over our sure fire way to getting on any shore excursion for WAY less.
First things first, the cruise ship will tell you the shore excursions are almost full and that you need to book with them before it’s too late. They will also tell you that you are safer if you book through the ship. The fact of the matter is, you can walk off the ship, and book with the same company the ship uses for a fraction of the cost especially if you go in the morning.
With kids, your best bet for shore excursions is to go in the morning when they are happy and fresh, and excited. The afternoon is crash time, and we like to be on the boat for that.
Shore excursions are also at their cheapest in the morning because most cruise goers stay up all night, sleep late, and head to shore in the afternoon.
On our last cruise, we were able to take a trip to the La Bufadora in Mexico for $30 simply because their bus wasn’t full. If we would have booked this through the ship, it would have cost $108. On the bus ride over they were advertising a killer deal of La Bufadora, zip lining, and horse back riding along the beach for $42 per person (4 and under free). That would have come out to $126 total verses $465 through the cruise. The other reason you should go in the morning, is then you will have enough time to do anything you want before time to leave port.
La Bufadora, Ensenada
We pack a bag for anything we could need for the entire day including sunscreen, diapers, towels, water, etc. Then we decide what we want to do when we get off based on what we can get the best deal on.
We did the same thing on Catalina Island. A bike tour on Catalina Island costs $45/person, but you can rent a bike for $5, and go where ever you like. The same goes for the golf carts. It is all less expensive once you get off.
When we went to Cozumel, Mexico; we were able to rent a jeep super cheap this way. My husband likes to haggle on prices anyway, and they knew they wouldn’t rent them all out in the morning.
We have never missed out on an adventure we wanted this way. My biggest suggestion is to set a budget for the fun stuff,and pull it out in cash (it’s easier to negotiate with cash), and don’t go over that amount. Your trip will be a lot more fun, and have many more fun memories attached to it, if you aren’t worried about money at the end.
Tip: When carrying cash (especially in foreign ports) don’t put it all in one place. Spread it out among pockets, and don’t pull it all out at once. Keep small bills for shopping because they will jack up prices if they see big bills.
Also, ask your guide for the best place to try the local cuisine. There is nothing more awesome than trying authentic, made in front of you food. We had the opportunity to try the most amazing tacos, and for $11, we were all stuffed.
The amazing people there also gave me a tutorial on how to make corn tortillas and gave my girls a free quesadilla. They especially liked it when I pulled out my college Spanish for them. (Justin’s fluent, I am not; but I try…) Try to engross yourself in the culture and people as much as you can. Food is free on the ship, but it’s worth a little to try it out.
Again, if you plan to hit the beach, don’t forget your towels, beach toys, and snorkels!
After our shore excursions, we like to head to the room for a quick rest (we go up and get lunch to bring back for the girls or call room service), and then we head to the pools and water parks which are usually deserted.
Make the Most of Time on the Ship
Days on the ship can be rough with kiddos. Here are a few of my tips to make it all go smoother.
Give kids an opportunity to run around. I like to hit the track with the kids first thing. Justin and I enjoy a nice walk or run while the girls run around. We usually give them a certain number of laps to complete, or we have races. The girls love it, and then we can go to breakfast without any wiggles. If it’s cold, we will find an empty lounge, and let the kids run around in there. Camp Carnival is a life saver on sea days, but we like to split it up, so we get alone time and time with the kids.
One of the Days’ Kids Care Activities: Crab Hats
There are tons of family activities on board, so we decide which of those we’d like to go to and plan around that. My family especially likes the towel animal demonstration and puppet show, followed by mini golf. Definitely leave a little down time before dinner.
Limit screen time on the ship. My kids are much better behaved without too many screens, but if I want them to sit still for dinner; I will bring something for them to do (coloring books and crayons, puzzles, books, etc.). Honestly, the best way to go is to let the kids eat with Camp Carnival and enjoy a night out alone. Justin and I love going to dinner together, and we especially love the shows.
The girls are much happier hanging out with the other kids eating, doing activities, and watching a movie. We did 2 dinners together as a family in the dining room. The first one was very successful, but they were backed up the second time, and it was very difficult for my kids to sit still for almost 2 hours for a meal.
Tip: When kids are at Camp Carnival, they will issue you a phone in case they need to get a hold of you.
Tip: Camp Carnival staff will change your child’s diaper; you just need to bring some in. I put them in a zip lock with my child’s name on them.
And that concludes our three part series on cruising with kids! We hope you enjoyed the tips and feel free to add any of your own in the comments!