We did it! We went on a cruise with kids and we SURVIVED! Not only did we survive, we THRIVED! It exceeded all our expectations. We went into this vacation “knowing” it was going to be hard. We assumed it would be exhausting and hard and difficult and all the things. And I’m here to tell you it was AMAZING! It was so much better than I could have ever imagined. Don’t get me wrong, cruising with kids isn’t a cake walk. But it can be great!
I’ve received so many questions asking about the specifics of our cruise, what we learned doing it with kids, what we wish we’d known ahead of time, etc. I’m about to word vomit anything and everything I can think of from our cruise to share with you.
Carnival Panorama Cruise
Everything I share about our cruise with kids is specific to our situation and the cruise we went on. We went on the Carnival Panorama boat. It’s one of their newer boats and was pretty amazing! Our cruise was a 7 day Mexico cruise with 3 ports: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. We currently have two kids: Harley (3 ½) and Luna (1 ½). Both of them came on the cruise with me and my husband.
Carnival has an app “Carnival Hub” which you definitely want on your phone before departure. Collin didn’t get his downloaded before departure which meant he didn’t have access the whole cruise. He actually ended up putting his phone in our luggage and he didn’t even use it the whole week.
The app has everything you need to know about what’s going on throughout the ship. It’s how you see what kid activities are happening in kids club and the hours you can drop them off, the schedule each day on the boat for shows and activities, it’s how you make reservations for activities and dinner, and so much more.
Paying for Messaging
For just $5 total for the whole cruise you can pay to be able to message through the Carnival Hub app. We went on the cruise with friends and we all paid to have this on our phone so that we could communicate. I would honestly say this is a must. We were able to communicate where we were, what our plans were, when we wanted to meet for meals, etc.
We did not pay to have data on either of our phones. We’ve been told that it’s never strong enough to do much anyway. Our cruise also emailed all of us a couple days before the cruise letting us know that because of the recent earthquakes in that part of the world, the WiFi was not working really well and they actually refunded anyone who had already bought an internet package.
We had WiFi during the one excursion we paid to do. It still wasn’t super fast but it did what it needed to for Collin to check work emails and check in on his employees. Our friends did another excursion and they also had internet there so I believe most the time you leave the boat you can find WiFi somewhere if needed.
Honestly though, it was such a nice break not having WiFi for 7 straight days. I’m the first to admit I’m pretty addicted to my phone and social media so it was huge for me to have a forced break that was very needed.
We debated purchasing the “Bottomless Bubbles” package. This is the package that gives you free soda and juice anytime. We ended up paying for it for myself, Collin, and Harley. We figured Luna could just drink some of Harley’s.
After purchasing Bottomless Bubbles we realized a few things… First, the ship didn’t have Dr. Pepper which is my soda of choice. I was pretty bummed since I don’t drink much soda besides Dr. Pepper. I ended up drinking Mountain Dew the whole week. Second, for us to get our money’s worth we each needed to be drinking a minimum of 4 drinks per day. We honestly just aren’t big soda drinkers. We might drink one a day. And on port days when we left the ship, we weren’t even on there to get the drinks for a big chunk of the day.
Next time we won’t be paying for Bottomless Bubbles. We will just pay a la carte when we want a drink. Please note that this package did not include specialty drinks like virgin piña coladas, etc. They have a variety of packages you can purchase for alcoholic beverages, etc.
A Cruise with Kids
Kids Under 2 Cannot Swim on the Boat
We learned quite a bit going on a cruise with kids, especially with a child who isn’t two yet. After booking the cruise we learned that Luna would not be allowed to swim on the boat because she is not potty trained. Yes, you read that right. A child who is not potty trained is not allowed to swim on the boat.
Now if you are a rule follower then you may want to stop reading this blog post right now because I’d hate to upset you! Please don’t come at me for this but we let Luna swim on the boat. She actually never got into any of the large pools but she did play in the splash pad area and go on the small slides for little kids.
The first day we put Luna in a swim diaper and took her to the splash pad kiddie area. The cruise ship had an employee stationed there and they immediately spotted the swim diaper and asked us to take it off. We told them we had it on as a precaution just in case and they told us swim diapers were not allowed and to take it off so she could come in and play. This seems a little backwards to me. Wouldn’t they rather be safe by allowing these younger kids to be in swim diapers? Instead there were a bunch of un-potty trained kids running around without swim diapers on.
I’m not sure if this is a rule across all cruise lines or just Carnival but I encourage you to check on this if you’re planning to go on a cruise with kids under the age of 2.
My 3 year old (Harley) absolutely loved the kids club. They had so many fun activities planned throughout the day she could go to as well as “free time” where Harley could play whatever she wanted. Harley went to kids club for an hour or 2 each day and oftentimes she was requesting to go.
Luna on the other hand did not have this luxury. Kids under 2 only have specific times they can go to the kids club and they cost money to go. It cost $8.85 per hour for Luna to go to the kids club. The times were not very convenient for us and our schedule to drop her off. You could take kids under 2 from 8am-10am each morning. We usually slept in and then went to breakfast as a family which meant we never took her during that time. You could drop kids under 2 off from 10pm-1am as well which we never did because we put our kids to sleep at night in the room.
Luna went to kids club a total of 2 times throughout the week of the cruise. During port days they do allow children under the age of two to be in the kids club for long chunks of time in case the adults want to leave the ship without their children. One of the days we didn’t leave the boat while at port and we had Luna and Harley both go in and play so we could have a little bit of a break.
Overall the kids club was amazing but if you are planning to go on a cruise with kids under the age of 2 be prepared to not be able to drop them off at kids club anytime you want a break.
We decided not to bring a stroller because we didn’t want to have to store it in our cabin as the cabin rooms are not very large. This made getting through the airport pretty exhausting but we did it! We then learned you could actually rent a stroller on the cruise ship.
The cruise ship offered strollers for rent from the kids club. It was either $12 for one day or $42 for the week. We rented it the two days we left the boat which was a total game changer to be able to push Luna around. This meant we paid $24 for our two days renting the stroller. Even if we’d left the boat all 3 port days that would have been $36 which is still cheaper than paying for a whole week’s rental and that way we never had to store it in our room.
If you can manage getting through the airport without a stroller then I’d definitely recommend renting one for your port days. You do not need one just to get around the boat.
Every boat has a variety of activities for kids. The kids club offered so many different fun activities that Harley loved. Double check the schedule when you first get on the boat and see if any activities require a reservation. If so, make the reservation immediately, even if you aren’t sure you’re going to do it. The spots fill up really quick. The kids club offered a “Build-a-Bear Workshop” one day which required reservations. It did have an additional fee with it as well.
Our boat had the “Sky Zone” on it which is a trampoline park! We knew this ahead of time and Harley was so excited to go to the trampoline park on the big cruise ship. Well, our first full day at sea (Sunday) we headed to the trampoline park and learned reservations were required. The earliest we could get a reservation at that point wasn’t until Friday. We were all a little bummed. We went Friday and the kids had so much fun! In the future we will definitely look into all of that ahead of time to make reservations early.
As previously mentioned, the ship had swimming pools, a splash pad area, and small water slides for littles. There were also bigger water slides for adults and taller kids. Harley was tall enough at 42” to go on one of the slides. The slides were a lot of fun and I went on both of them throughout the week!
These honestly saved us on our cruise. We have an iPad for both our kids and they were much needed. We brought the iPads to dinner every single night. Why? So that we could actually enjoy the meal. We ate dinner at our assigned restaurant all but one night on the cruise and definitely recommend it. That being said, the meals were long and took between an hour to an hour and a half on average to get through all the courses.
We found that by dinnertime our kids were pretty worn out from the day, especially Luna. So to save ourselves and the people around us, we brought the iPads. The kids watched their shows and played their games and they actually seemed to eat more than normal because they were occupied by their shows.
I don’t think we would have survived dinner every night and actually enjoyed it if we didn’t have the iPads.
Speaking of the iPads, download literally anything and everything you can ahead of time so that your kids have things to watch while on the cruise. No WiFi hits really different with kids, especially after multiple days.
Final Things from my Brain
Small Beach Towels/Toy
We did not take any beach towels with us on the cruise. They had plenty of towels on the ship to use. Unfortunately, when leaving the ship, we had to pack the huge ship towels. Our two favorite beach towels both fold up super small and would have been perfect to take. Geometry Beach Towels are super absorbent, large, and fold up small. You can use the code “MCCALLH15” for a discount. A more affordable option are Turkish Towels. They fold up small and dry quickly but do not absorb as much.
We also wish we would have brought some small beach toys for the kids to play with. Our friends brought some but we were only with them for one of our days at the beach. We did bring the girls puddle jumpers though and we are very glad we did.
It was recommended to us that we take a night light but we didn’t take one. The benefit of a night light is that when you put your kids to sleep at night, you still have the ability to see without having to use your phone flash light. We cracked the bathroom door and it worked fine for us but others may prefer a night light.
We saw a handful of decorated doors throughout the ship. If you are going with kids who are a little bit older and might be going around on their own somewhat, decorating your door is a great idea. It makes your room so much easier to find. It’s something I definitely want to remember for future cruises when my kids are older.