They say the sea was where we started. And some of us yearn to go home. My father, when I was a boy, always talked about buying a boat, teaching us some knots and setting out toward the sunset. He would come back from a trip to the Caribbean and other glassy, warm waters, and show us pictures.
A few weeks ago, I got the chance to take my family on a similar journey on the sea.
We set off on a plane, all of us, heading toward Miami, for a ship named Carnival Breeze. I needed a breeze, let me tell you. Life had gotten so intense and work-focused that I could barely remember my own name. We needed to catch a headwind and get out of Los Angeles.
And Carnival Cruise Line was there to put the wind back in our sails. And a little food in there, too.
We arrived in Miami to a chilly 85 degrees with 1000% humidity. California is so dry, I felt like I could drink the air. We made our way to the hotel because the next day we were boarding our vessel. Outside the airport smelled like Cuban food and dreams. I’d visited Miami back last October and discovered so many new loves, including an amazing Cuban espresso. It’s like cha-cha-cha’ing while jogging.
We reluctantly fell asleep after dinner, imagining the ship docked in the Port of Miami with our names on a list. The next day we boarded. The parking lot was organized chaos with bags and people swiftly moving in lines in all directions.
This was the first time my son coined the phrase, “When the parents are snoozing, the kids are cruising.” It was an unsettlingly teenage thing to say for a five year-old, and ultimately a sign of the feeling of freedom he’d soon show us in full bloom aboard our ship.
Entering the ship was like boarding a spacecraft. But with music and smiling.
We walked to our room, and opened the door. Not only did we have an ocean view, but they already had a separate bed for Finn, and a crib ready for little Arden. I’m not saying the stewards were psychic, but one of them knew my name was Charlie already.
As you can see, the kids weren’t huge fans of the room, the magical towels shaped like animals every night or being rocked to sleep every night. And the ship lived up to both of its names.
The Carnival aspect was that fun, and activities were available at any time of day or night, in varying degrees of intensity, and volume. Whether you wanted to play a judge for boisterous, fun karaoke at night, or sit quietly watching the waves spells out messages from Poseidon himself — there were literally all sorts of things to do.
The days at sea were as entertaining as the days ashore. We chose a few excursions and even a spa appointment to test drive the whole cruise lifestyle. Let me go into detail on each one, so if you decide to take a cruise, you’ll be that much more prepared.
JUST KIDDING. I want to relive experiences by writing about them!
Grand Cayman – Stingray City
This was a bucket list item for me. I love manta rays and stingrays very much. They remind me of underwater bats. But after meeting them in person, and by them I mean about 30 at the same time, they’re much more like underwater puppies. We took a 20 minute boat ride off the shore of Grand Cayman into a little sandbar area. We anchored, jumped in and there they were. Our guides brought out some squid pieces and we became the most popular mammals in town. I got to hand feed my happy little friends and we took some pictures. They were so delightful. Even Arden and Finn were unfazed by these gentle, soft-skinned creatures. Seriously amazeballs level fun for me.
I shot some GoPro footage underwater with them and will probably upload that somewhere soon. The entire time we felt safe and our guides made it very easy to be there for the rays if they wanted to interact with us. Such a blast.
Cozumel, Mexico – Private Beach Retreat
First, I have to disclose that this beach had both a chef and a dedicated bartender. So, when I gush about how rad it was, just know I’d had 30 gallons of homemade mole sauce and three portions of authentic Mayan fish dishes. And a few cocktails from the open bar. I just felt safe there. I took Finn on his first adventure in snorkeling. We spotted an eel as well as lots of colorful fish and flora. Arden had the luxury of the coolest crib of all time. We put him in a hammock, tied it off and rocked it. We slept like a proverbial baby, which if you’ve ever seen an actual baby sleeps is a freaking nightmare. It was perfection. I highly recommend this one. The host and staff were incredibly helpful and cordial.
Carnival Breeze – The Freaking Carnival Cruise Line Ship
I could talk about a whole truckload of fun stuff. The everlasting ice cream. The ship stewards who knew your first name and cared about how your kids were doing. The way the ship would rock you to sleep in open water. But I’ll let Finn share his favorite parts, because, after all, your kids having a blast is a huge reason to even attempt traveling with kids.
“I liked the waterslides, the movies in the pool, the ice cream, the swimming, the food, the ice cream, the climbing, the Cat in the Hat, snorkeling, the stingrays, and doing all the new things with you, Dada. Basically, I want to go back.”
So, I’ll leave you with that in-depth survey of the cruise world from a 5-year-old. There’s so much for adults too, don’t get me wrong. If I ever meet you in person, I’ll tell you all about the experiences with the comedian on board, the music, the dancing, windy breezes on hot summer nights, and the horizons made of watercolor beauty.
But I think we’d all agree a five year-old boy has a pretty good lock on what’s fun. Or at least where to begin.
This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.