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Travel With Bender

Uncovering the best family holidays

The Caribbean

Carefree Carnival Cruising in the Caribbean

We love cruising. This is our third cruise in 2 years and our second in the States. Cruising in the States is so cheap compared to the one we did in Australia, which is why we've done one already and now this one. Here's the run down on one of the must-do cruises to take in your life, through the Caribbean. 

Day One - San Juan, Puerto Rico

The dock was crazy at San Juan. Turns out they take on passengers at Barbados and San Juan so people were coming off, coming back on and then coming on for the first time as well. The cruise we took several months earlier from Port Canaveral was much better organized.

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We had to drag our kids and several bags through a massive queue, up a long walk with several checks, before finally entering a building where they were scanned and taken (the bags, not the children).

Carnival surprised us with a VIP check-in and after all that rigmarole check-in was smooth and seamless. We skipped queues, waited in an air-conditioned lounge with pastries and lemonade while they checked us in before again skipping the queues for easy access straight onto the ship.

We also had immediate access to our room which was nice. We dumped our stuff and headed straight to lunch.

After lunch we decided to go check out San Juan port for a little since we didn’t need to be back on the boat until 8:30pm.

Once we had checked out the area we got back on the boat for some dinner and more discoveries. We were delighted to find a waterslide onboard, mini golf, several pools and hot tubs. Also new and exciting eating options like burritos and fish & chips.  

It was an early night for the kids and us in our new, very tiny quarters. The cheapest cabin, it was our first time in an inside room. It was tiny, no window and no couch. While we did not spend a lot of time in here I think I would be tempted to go bigger next time it was hard to move around in with 4 people.

Day Two - St Thomas

The kids could not contain their excitement to hit Camp Carnival so after breakfast they went straight there.

Josh and I then headed to St Thomas. We walked to town and had a look around. The markets were fairly expensive with not much room for bartering so we made no purchases. Before long, Tim found us and convinced us to take an island tour for $25 per person.

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The tour took us way up high onto the mountaintop where we witnessed amazing views and even got in some fabulous shopping.

We also got a quick stop at a beach before being dropped back at the boat. You can book Tim through Tim Tours 340 626 8300 

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On our return the kids were not interested in leaving kids club so we had some alone time before collecting them for dinner.

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Mia fell asleep at the dinner table whereas Caius had taken a nap earlier. So he went back to Camp Carnival and I watched “My Best Friends Wedding” under the stars in the middle of the ocean with Mia on my lap.

It got cold and, so sweetly, one of the attendants brought me a blanket out of nowhere, I was touched.

Day Three - At Sea

Our only sea day and there was so much to do. We played mini golf, rode the waterslide, swam in the pool. The kids did a few hours at kids club while Josh and I went to a cooking demo in the steak restaurant. The food was delicious.

Later we met some amazing people in the hot tub of the adults only spa. After talking to them for a while they mentioned they were going to do a snorkeling trip the next day on Barbados and if we wanted to come to meet them out there at 9:30am. We thought it was a great idea.

It was elegant night at the restaurant and that’s when we first meet our waiter Mr King. He was a hit with the kids and we loved him too, a real riot. His service was fabulous and always exceptionally funny.

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In our room we found champagne and a fruit basket delivered courtesy of Carnival Cruises, thanks Carnival.

Day Four - Barbados

Barbados had a great choice of things to do, mostly revolving around all types of water sports equipment. We decided to choose a catarmaran. At 9:30am our new friends met us on Barbados. Their tour company they had booked with agreed to take us as well and we were shuffled into a taxi bus.

The taxi took us about 20 minutes outside of town where a catamaran was waiting for us. With a group of 12, we sailed the crystal blue Caribbean Ocean. It was simply stunning and a great day of fun in the sun.

We stopped for a bit of snorkeling with colourful fish and wild sea turtles. Unlike our previous snorkeling trip in Belize, we didn’t have the kids with us so it was nice to just sit back and relax without being in “parent mode”. The catamaran crew were really friendly and provided a tasty lunch onboard.

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We spotted a huge catarmaran coming in as we left our areas, depositing hundreds of bodies into the waters. The Captain believed those were the cruise organsied tours. It did not look fun.

Ours was so relaxed and enjoyable getting to know our new friends and soaking up the sun. And despite reapplying several times everyone came off the boat quite sunkissed. My lips tingled for days after that ride.

After some photos back near the dock we farewelled our friends for a shower and a nap.

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Later that night we met for dinner in the Lincoln dining room before off to see one of the cruise ship shows.

Day Five - St Lucia

Our day on St Lucia was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. We did a 3-part adventure tour including a Jeep ride through the rainforest, zip-lining and a waterfall. You can read all about it here. And see all the pictures here. 

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Day Six - St Kitts

Against the protest from our kids, who wanted to be in kids club, we decided to spend some time with them and took them off the ship to St Kitts.

We asked a few people the best place to take the kids to the beach and decided on St Friars. It was a $4 one-way per person taxi ride with the kids free.

Before we jumped on the taxi, we wandered through the town a little, and did a little shopping. After we had decided on our beach of choice (there are several to choose from) we made our way back to the taxis and were whisked straight away onto a shuttle to St Friars.

This turned out to be one of our favourite beaches in the whole world. I mean, just look at it.

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White sand, crystal translucent water that no matter how far you walked out you were still only waist deep. A snorkeling area was located to the right near large rocks, and little fish could be found throughout most of the water. We managed to score an umbrella for about $10, it was so large that once the beach was full and we spotted a couple looking for shade, we offered them to share. They kindly paid $5.

We spent a delightful morning playing in the water with the kids, building sandcastles and having a great time. You can view all our photos on St Kitts here! 

About 1:30pm we headed back to our taxi to make our way back to the ship for lunch and a nap.

We finished the day with dinner and a magic show on board our cruise ship. Also a lovely surprise of white chocolate-dipped strawberries awaited us from Carnival. Those we were divine, get them on your next Carnival cruise from the gift store. Yum!

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Day Seven - St Maarten

Our last day onboard our Caribbean Carnival Cruise. We received an early morning message from our friends asking us to meet them at Maho beach. So after breakfast we dropped the kids back at Camp Carnival and headed onto St Maarten.

St Maarten was calm and collected versus St Kitt’s tourist guide mayham. We bypassed the ferry and followed the signs to the taxi rank where, after questioning one, we were told, “oh we’ve been waiting for you.” And they ushered us onto the last spots in the taxi shuttle. It was $8 per person.

When we stepped out onto Maho we immediately spotted our friends. Being rather early we managed to get umbrellas and sunchairs $20 (2 chairs and an umbrella). Make sure you get there before 10am if you want a sunchair.

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Maho is one of the last places you can witness the landing of commercial planes flying just a few meters from the ground. Our new friends happened to be pilots and this was where they wanted to spend their vacation.

It was loud, the beach was very choppy and there were lots of people, but it was fun. I wouldn’t call it a relaxing, tranquil, nice beach, but what an experience.

Look at these photos! And no, they are not photoshopped!

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It was a little while after midday that we decided to return to the boat for lunch. Our ride back we were crammed into an already full bus and were promised a discounted $5 instead of $8. It wasn’t a far journey so we went along. Along the drive we could see from a distance some of the beautiful beaches on the island – it’s definitely a place we want to come back and explore more next time. 

As it was our final night we met in our friend’s room for pre-dinner drinks. We popped open the champagne in their beautiful balcony suite and shared some friendly chit-chat before finally heading to dinner.

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We were not allowed to eat in our dining room (Washington) since there was no room for additional guests, so I had asked our maitre d’ to set something up for us in the Lincoln. Our friends could not believe the difference in service, as it was the only time they had ever been well served. It was a shame to hear that since Mr King had been so great to us the entire time in the Washington Dining room.

The difference being Washington was set dining times and set seating, where as the Lincoln was completely flexible times and seating. So can I recommend you get a scheduled dining experience on your cruise.

We sang songs at the Piano bar, watched the final musical production and headed to bed.

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Day Eight - San Juan, Puerto Rico

We bumped into our friends at breakfast and said our farewells. Once we had finished we decided to disembark as the pool and most facilities were closed. It had been a wonderful cruise with Carnival and we had made friends we hope to cherish for a lifetime.

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Can I recommend this cruise? For sure. It might even be my favourite one out of the three we’ve taken so far. And we will definitely come back to the Caribbean. It’s one of our favorite regions and perfect for families with young kids.

All our photos can be found in our Caribbean Photo Journal here. 

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Here's what you have to say...

"I respond to every comment by private email. So please leave me comments, I love chatting to you" -
Posted by Bethaney - Flashpacker Family on
Great wrap up post! I'm so jealous!!!!! Can't wait to do a cruise. The room does look tiny though.
Posted by Jennifer on
We always thought a Caribbean cruise might be a good way to get a taste of which islands we'd like to go back to and explore. St. Maarten is our favorite island and we spent 8 days there every May up until a few years ago. Which was your favorite island?
Posted by Kimmy @ AfterGlobe on
My husband and I have been considering a cruise through the Caribbean, as well. It's nice to see someone's full experience and to hear you enjoyed yourself. It really does sound like one of the best ways to see these islands.

Hopefully we will see you when you make your way through Portland. :)
Posted by Karin on
Great read Erin
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