Cruising is more than just a vacation.
When you work hard every day, all year long you need a really relaxing break. And there’s nothing quite as therapeutic as unwinding on a majestic cruise ship sailing into the sunset towards a dreamy tropical destination.
But if you’re a parent, like me, you know it’s not quite as easy as that.
Don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my kids, Mia and Caius. Every minute with them is a privilege and joy, and I know one day they will fly the nest to chart their own destiny.
But once in a while a parent just needs a little bit of a holiday from… well, being a parent.
Let’s be honest. You know what I mean.
Whilst there was no shortage of fun, family-friendly activities I enjoyed with my kids on-board the Carnival Miracle, I also discovered a bunch of reasons why parents love cruising to Hawaii with Carnival.
It’s so much fun being an adult too!
1. Kids club (Camp Ocean – ages 2 to 11)
My youngsters jump at any chance to join in a kids club. The Camp Ocean folks on the Carnival Miracle were top notch – each team member is experienced and trained to ensure children are well cared for and have a great time. And I had complete peace of mind knowing Mia and Caius were in safe hands. Staff provided a nifty special ship phone so they could call me in case one of my children needed attention. A schedule was provided by Camp Ocean at the start of the cruise so we could plan our shore excursions and other family activities. We tried to pick up the kids most evenings to eat dinner with us oldies, but staff are able to take them upstairs to the Lido Restaurant if you prefer, for a special kid-friendly menu.
2. After-hours babysitting (6 months – 11 years)
A special program called Night Owls is available after Camp Ocean finishes at 10pm. This babysitting service is only a nominal cost (at an hourly rate) for late-night child care until 1am if you want to party the night away.
3. No need to cook!
Put your spatula away… you’re on holiday! If you normally have to come home from work every day to cook your family dinner, then you’ll enjoy letting someone else sweat over the stove. Whether it’s the all-you-can-eat everything in the Lido Restaurant or more refined dining at Bacchus Dining Room, there’s no shortage of dining options that kids and parents alike will enjoy.
4. No need to clean!
We stayed in a beautiful Balcony Suite which was cleaned every day by our friendly steward. No need to do any vacuuming, tidying or even making the beds. Now this is a real vacation!
5. Musicals and shows
Now that we have the necessities out of the way – child care, cooking and cleaning, it’s time to let down your hair and be entertained by the best performers in the open ocean. Every evening after dinner, we put the kids into Camp Ocean and enjoyed a spectacular show in Phantom Main Show Lounge.
6. On-board Internet
Most people will agree it’s healthy to unplug regularly – get away from the buzz of social media chatter and put down the screens which absorb so much of our day. But if you need to get your Facebook fix or want to share some awesome holiday snaps with loved ones, the on-board Wi-Fi service is surprisingly reliable. Especially considering we were often hundreds of miles away from land. The system works on a satellite connection, but the closer the ship was to land, the faster it seemed to work.
Carnival offer 3 levels of service depending on what you need: Social for $5/day (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc), Value for $16/day (including email, news, sports, weather, etc), or Premium for $25/day (including Skype and speed that is up to 3x faster than Value). If you simply want to chat with other members of your travelling party, for $5/trip you can access on-board text chat.
Tip: Download the free Carnival Hub app before you embark – it has everything you need: on-board activity schedule, food options, ship maps, view on-board spending plus control your Wi-Fi plan. It only works when you’re on the ship, but in the meantime, can display a countdown timer to your departure day.
Tip: set your phone onto Airplane Mode so you don’t rack up a huge data roaming bill. Then turn on Wi-Fi to connect to the ship’s network.
7. Keep your wallet locked away
Almost every purchase on-board can be made using your Sail & Sign card. This nifty card doubles up as the security key to your stateroom. Just make sure when checking in on the first day, the kids’ cards don’t have purchasing authorisation. I suggest bringing your own lanyard so the card can be carried around your neck. This card made relaxing in the pool far more relaxing knowing that no-one could walk away with my entire wallet.
8. Adult only pools
Speaking of swimming pools, one of my favourite parent-friendly areas of the Carnival Miracle was Serenity. This relaxing section of the ship is only accessible if you’re 21 years and older, so soaking in the hot tub is pure serenity. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I thought about this video while rocking gently in a hammock. As a parent, “serenity now!” is a phrase I’ve used before.
9. Adult only comedy shows
Every evening the Punchliner Comedy Club put on a family friendly show at an early session, and an adults-only show around 9:30pm. Top comedians from around the world kept us in stitches and rolling in the isles. I didn’t expect this, but the comedy club was one of my favourite activities on the ship.
10. Fancy kid-free dining
Want to celebrate a special event, birthday, anniversary, or just indulge in world-class steaks? For only $35 extra, the restaurant Steakhouse serves a selection of perfectly cooked steaks and appetizers that look so good you’ll need to take a photo. Well, that’s what I did. Reservations are highly recommended as space is limited. And if you want to bring the kids, that’s perfectly fine too. A special menu for 11-year-olds and under is available for just $10.
11. Cooking demonstrations
Once I’d tasted the magic that came out of the Steakhouse kitchen, I had to see how it was done. Regular cooking demonstrations shed light onto culinary techniques and inspired flavour combinations that you can re-create at home. The chef provided a handy take-away recipe sheet and walked us through step-by-step, with free taste testers. Yum!
Drop a few dollars on a Bingo card and you could walk away with an amazing prize like a free cruise! Shhh… don’t tell my kids, or they’ll want to join in too!
Here’s a little-known secret… I love trivia games. So, the idea of challenging myself with a group of fun-loving fellow cruisers, was right up my alley. Each day trivia subjects ranged from music to pop culture to history. So simple, yet so fun.
14. Grab a book from the Library
If your idea of a vacation includes putting your feet up with a good book, then you’re in luck. The Library provides hundreds of books which you can borrow for free. Romance, thriller, action or mystery – whatever your favourite genre, you’ll find it.
15. Let’s get physical!
My perfect cruise plan is simple. Enjoy the buffet on Lido deck and chill in the pool. Done. But if you prefer working up a sweat or just feel a little guilty after one too many rounds of dessert, I won’t judge. The fitness centre is just for you.
16. Dance classes
Since you don’t have to clean or cook or entertain your children on a cruise, that leaves a lot of free time to try new things. I tried salsa dance classes and picked up a few new moves. The best dancers even get a chance to shake their booty on stage in front of a packed audience.
17. Let your hair down
18. Grab a cocktail
Cruising to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without a cocktail in your hand. Try one of the creative combinations at Alchemy Bar. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are available for a small extra charge. Tip: try the Moscow Mule… it’s delish!
19. Sing a song
Once you’ve got a drink or two in you, you’ll be ready to warble a tune with other cruisers at the Piano Bar.
20. Really sing a song
Whether your singing voice belongs on American Idol or kept in the shower, there’s a place for you let loose and let your inner karaoke king/queen come out. Yeah!
21. Sailaway party
The action begins as soon as you step on-board, but the voyage-long party really kicks off at the Sailaway Party. There’s music, dancing and laughs. Make sure you don’t miss it.