Thursday, September 22, 2016

Our 2016 Mexican Cruise

A few months ago, Noah ran the idea of doing a cruise for our yearly vacation by me.  I'll admit - at first I was a little skeptical of it.  Traveling in a small room with an active little girl and a tiny baby didn't sound appealing to me in the least.

But Noah had done his research and assured me it was a good idea. He's kind of our vacation planner - I call him Clark Griswold when it comes to vacations. :) He's way into it.  So I trusted his opinion, and we signed up for a 5-day cruise out of New Orleans.  Just for good measure, we invited my parents to tag along too.  They both have fall birthdays, so we thought it would be a perfect time to celebrate them!

And y'all?  Noah was right.  It ended up being the perfect vacation for our family this year.

We had to wait until Jackson was 6 months old to even think about doing a cruise (cruise line rules).  So we knew we couldn't go until at least August.  The further you get into the fall, the better the prices get...and we thought it would be a little bit cooler and less crowded if we went in September.  This is Emmie's last year to get to ditch school for a vacation, so we took advantage of it!  The weather and crowds ended up being great in mid-September.

I'm going to split this post up into two parts; today's post will have pictures and recaps from the vacation and I'll have one next week with tips and planning advice on cruising with kids.  Get ready for a picture overload today! :)

We sailed out of New Orleans on the Carnival Triumph.  We originally had a balcony room booked, but a few weeks before the trip Carnival offered us an upgrade to a suite for a few hundred dollars.  We accepted, and it ended up being the best thing we could have done for the vacation!  Not only did it give us a little more room, but gave us priority status for boarding and disembarking.  We got to skip a lot of the huge lines, which is huge with little children!

The room was perfect for the four of us.  It had room for a crib (which Carnival had waiting on us when we boarded) and a couch that converts to a twin bed for Emmie.  There was room for the kids to kind of play if we were in the room and we had plenty of space to all get ready at once.

Crib and couch (that converted to a bed for Emmie)

Looking back towards the door.  There was a whole bar area with a fridge...huge if you have a baby!  There was also storage under the bar area that we used for toys, so they weren't cluttering up the room.

The bathroom was much bigger than a standard cruise bathroom.  It had a shower/tub combo that was really nice, as opposed to the matchbox that you normally have to shower in!

There was a dressing area that we used to store baby items and to have a little bit of privacy from kids while we were getting ready.

And lots of extra storage!  We used one closet for our double stroller and the others were great for clothes and baby junk.

And we had a huge balcony!  The view you see here is only half of it.  This was a must-have for after we put the kids to sleep every night.

As soon as we boarded, we had a little fun surprise waiting in the room for Emmie.  Carnival offers a little gift pack you can have waiting for you in your room, with pool floaties, a coloring book, and a backpack.  She was so excited!

Our first day was a day at sea.  One of the biggest things I loved about cruising with kids was the number of activities on board.  We joked that Emmie was the busiest one in the family on vacation!  Up first was a character parade with several Dr. Seuss characters.

We paraded through the whole boat with instruments and signs.  She got a kick out of it!

That led to a reading of Cat in the Hat by our cruise director.  And guess who got picked to play Thing 2 in the reading...

It was so cute!

She got so into it and was so excited to get to keep her Thing 2 hair.  It was a fun little touch that she is going to remember forever.

That night, we went to our first sit-down dinner (and of course my camera died about 5 minutes after we got there).  This guy did great...he even sat in a high chair for the first time!

And we came back to one of Emmie's favorite parts of the whole trip - the nightly towel animal.  It's the little things, you know? :)

The next morning, we had an awesome Seaday brunch.  Afterwards, Emmie went to Camp Carnival. And that was about the end of our time with her.

Camp Carnival is the babysitting service (that is included in your cruise price) that is absolutely packed full of activities for kids.  From the day that she went for the first time, she absolutely begged to go every single day!  They had everything from crafts to games to competitions for the kids.  It was amazing. (I'll try to remember to find the schedule and put a copy in my tips/tricks post...but they had a schedule from 10am every morning to 10pm at night, with a hour or two break in the afternoon.)

That afternoon, while Jackson napped and I stayed with him in the room, Noah and Emmie did a family scavenger hunt (and they won!).  This was Emmie's first trophy ever...she was so proud of it.  It is currently being displayed front and center in our living room.

They also had the chance to do a Carnival-themed Build a Bear.

Hula Starfish Elena is the newest member of the Lambert family.

That night was our formal dinner.  If you've never been on a cruise, typically there is one night that is nicer than the others.  You're expected to wear nicer clothes and the food is usually the best you'll get on the whole trip.

And the food didn't disappoint!  One of my favorite food features of the boat was The Taste Bar - before dinner, a smaller appetizer from some of the nice restaurants on board would be served.  This was an incredible meatball from the Italian chefs.

And the meal in the dining room was just as amazing.  I had stuffed mushrooms and a crab ravioli.  SO good.

We came back to the room to our favorite towel animal!

Day 3 was our day in Mexico.  

Of course, even in Cozumel, everyone had to wear their Alabama was a game day!

Before heading out, we went to the top deck for breakfast and to check out the towel animals.  They were on every chair by the pool.

Emmie just loved them.

We honestly didn't stay in Mexico for very long.  It was insanely hot that day (had to be well over 100°...even the Carnival employees were commenting on how hot it was), but we did have a little authentic Mexican food and do some shopping.

And once we got back on the boat, Emmie, Noah and I got in a little pool time while Jackson napped in the room with his Mimi!

Noah has been talking up that water slide for months.  I wasn't sure if she would do it or not, but once Noah kind of coaxed her into it, she begged to do it again.

On day 4, we had probably my favorite event of the whole trip.  There is a Cat in the Hat brunch option available that was absolutely precious.

All of the dining tables were Dr. Seuss-themed and the menu was full of fun Dr. Seuss breakfast treats.

I had the Belgian Waffles...

...Noah had the Fox in Socks Steak and Eggs...

...and Emmie had the Yogurt Parfait.

The characters were also there to sign autographs and take pictures!

We had the best time at this one...if you're taking kids on a Carnival Cruise, I think a lot of the ships have this option on one of the sea days now.  It was so worth the very reasonable cost!

After brunch, we had a little time in the room with Thing 1 while Thing 2 went to Camp Carnival.  Once she was done with that, we headed to High Tea at Sea!

This is a (free!) tea time that is offered one or both afternoons at sea.  It was such a fun little thing to do with kids.

There were lots of little treats and tea offered.  One of the many reasons you're never hungry on a cruise. :)

We also headed by the arcade (and I'm pretty sure if you ask Emmie, this was her highlight of the trip). 

I didn't get many pictures of that night and getting off the boat, because honestly those aren't a lot of fun. :) Lots of packing and waiting in lines.  But I did snap this one Sunday night, while I sat on the balcony as Jackson napped...

It was the perfect sunset to cap off our first big vacation as a family of four!