Dreaming of: Cruising with Kids (Again and again and again)

This Monday I have so many dreams. Most of them involve traveling to many places with my family.

The most vivid one for me today however is the dream of going back on the big ship and cruising again to fun places in different port of call. I wouldn’t call us an expert in cruising by any means. We have only been to Disney Cruise and Carnival Cruise with our kids. But I can say that cruising with kids is one of our favorite non-stress vacation we have had.

It also helps to have been following Randy from The Lollipop Road as he is live-blogging and tweeting from the sea.

Check out a month long event from his blog as he talks about his experience on board 3 of the most popular cruise lines – Carnival, Disney and Norwegian.

So far, I have enjoyed reading about the shore excursions which Randy provided insightful information on DIY vs Cruise Line tour, the review of kid’s programs from both Camp Carnival and Disney’s Oceaneer Club, and the tips & tricks for family cruising.

Now, there is more to this month-long program than just information to help family understand and gain more information on cruising with kids, they will also give out the prizes at the end of this event. All you have to do is check out their event page to see how you can enter for a chance to win a prize.

Check out other travelers’ dream at Mondays are for dreaming at Mother of All Trips.

Little Zoo Aboard Carnival Cruise

One of the fun thing we looked forward to on our Carnival Cruise was the towel animal that would be waiting for us on our bed or inside our room. We didn’t know what we will find so it was a big fun for the kids.

Here are animals we found in our cabin on our Carnival Cruise a couple years ago. Enjoy! :)

Carnival Cruise Towel Animal

Carnival Cruise Towel Animal

Carnival Cruise Towel Animal 3

Carnival Cruise Towel Animal

Carnial Cruise Towel Animal - Monkey

Check out other travelers’ Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

5 Expenses Not Include on Your Cruise

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This post continues on my cruising saga in the past couple weeks starting from why we love cruising with our kids and showing how I save on planning our cruise vacation.

Once all the planning is done, you would think that you are done with spending. Not so fast! It’s true that cruising is All-Inclusive which mean everything is included in the cost except your own spending on the boat and off the boat.

So today I want to share 5 Expenses that you might not have thought or aware of when planning a cruise vacation and ways to keep the lid on those expenses so you won’t have to come home with a huge bill waiting after the fun vacation.

1. Watch Out those Fancy Drinks

We don’t drink period. Mr. Rojo has some scare about his liver enzyme a few years ago so we practically cut out all alcohol beverage from our house. So it does help us cut down dramatically on the spending in this category.

Some cruise line will provide free soda drink (like Disney) but some cruise line will only provide water and ice tea. So if you can’t live without soda, you can bring your own in your suitcase.

As for wine and other beverage, I’m not quite sure since I didn’t even bother to check. But I believe you can bring one bottle per person. Check with your cruise line on their rule.

Check on cruise boards like Cruise Critic or Cruise Mates on more tips to cut down on beverage cost.

2. Portrait Picture? What pictures?

Family portrait on the cruise is a big business and a money maker for cruise line. You can end up spending a fortune if you blindly pick every single pictures ever taken on the ship.

If you think you absolutely must have those portrais, check out a package and see if you can get discount.

I have seen the light and aren’t too crazy about those pictures so we came out pretty good at the end with a couple pictures of our whole family. That’s pretty much what we got.

3. The Shopping Spree

In each port of call, you will most likely have a flyer in your room the night before about the great discount if you shop at certain approved store. I rarely look at those. I LOVE to shop. Who doesn’t. But I also love to explore and spend my money on something else that I couldn’t have when we are back home. Buying a watch or jewelry isn’t high on my list.

But if it’s what you are looking for, then shop smart and watch out for your budget. This one is a big one that can blow a big hole in your wallet if you are not careful.

I don’t have much self-controlled myself when it comes to shopping. So I set a limit on 1 sourvenir per person per port. At least they will get to pick something from each place that we visit. For the kids, I told them $10 maximum and Miss J has learned that rule by heart. It’s all about training them young. :)

4. Tips

Alright, yes maybe they did tell you about tips. But most people forget or didn’t think about adding it up until the last day. The cruise line is pretty good at providing the information of suggested tip per person per night. The tip ranges from $10-$15 per person per day.

I have also heard that some cruise lines have moved to add service charges instead of tipping. So make sure to check your cruise cost before shelling out those cash at the end of your trip.

5. Expense on Port of Call Day

The port of call day is pretty much a free style day. You can do whatever you want. Majority of passengers choose to disembark and enjoy sightseeing or exploring the city for a day.

If you plan to explore, don’t forget the cost of food and transportation during the day as it does not include in your cruise cost. The ship still provided food on board but most countries have strict rule of bringing fresh food, fruit and vegetable to their countries. So you can either eat before you leave, plan and budget for local food (which I love to do. Otherwise why visit if you didn’t get to taste local food), or pack package food that allows through custom.

Another expense during the port of call day that can be a major budget buster is the excursion fee. Try to avoid the idea of doing it all. I try to limit to one excursion per port. You will have less than 5-8 hours at the port so make sure that you check all the excursion time and length before signing up. Remember that the excursions provided by local companies are for all cruise ships so they might not know about your ship time.

Is there other expenses that I might have missed from your past cruise experience?

5 Reasons We Love Cruising with Kids

As most of you guys know we love to travel with our kids. I love to try different kinds of adventures for my kids whether it’s just a day trip or a weekend trip. But most of all, I always always dream up our vacation trips. I try not to stick to one type of vacation. I believe in exploring different kinds of traveling like cruising, city sightseeing or road trips and going out of our comfort zone like camping.

We have done various types of traveling but still have yet many more to explore. One of many memorable trips we had and have been on top of our list is Cruising.

Here are our 5 reasons why we love cruising with kids and I think if you haven’t done so at least you might want to consider it.

Play At Sea Cruising

1. Great Kids Club

There are plenty of activities for them to do on the ship that are organized by staffs. It is a great way for them to have fun with kids of their own ages and a great escape for us to have some time alone.

Don’t like organized activities? Kids can also enjoy swimming in the pool, explore the ship, or playing putt-putt on the deck. And sometimes, just sitting at the back of the ship watching white foamy wave from the ship can take up the whole afternoon.

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2. No more ‘What to eat’ question

Deciding what to eat each day is one of the most stressful for any family vacation. For cruising, this problem is solved and I don’t have to worry about planning. Food is easily accessible 24/7. There is something for everyone even the most picky eater of the family.

Our absolute favorite is unlimited soft serve ice cream. We could live on those!

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3. Set Budget

We *try* to set our budget for every vacation trip. But most of the time, we ended up spending more than we plan. It’s just what it is. Cruising helps us sticking to our budget because everything is pre-paid. Food, accommodation, transportation and excursion can be paid in advance. So we know how much our vacation will cost. Plus most of the time, you will have to pay certain amount before cruise date. So it helps not having a big bill at the end.

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4. Destinations Buffet

I consider our cruising to each port of call as ‘Destination Buffet’. We get to see what each city is like. Try it out and we can come back later for longer stay. It gives us a chance to visit several difference places without going bankrupt. It’s a great introduction to different cultures and experiences.

Also traveling with kids to various cities in one trip can be a hassle. Cruising helps eliminate that issue. You don’t have to check-in your luggage to the airport to fly to different cities. You don’t have to pack and unpack your luggage at each location once you arrive. If you are the only one who pack and unpack, you will really appreciate this benefit!

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5. You can do Nothing or Everything

A lot of times, I have heard people who said they don’t think they will like cruising because they afraid they will get bored. Well, I can say that there are more activities than more days on the ship. So you will never get bored. And at each port of call, you have options to do NOTHING or do ANYTHING that you love. It’s for both adventurous and non-adventurous type.

For family with kids, just spending time at the beach at the port of call can be the most amazing time for them. The best part it’s free. And if your kids are older and want to do more then you can also plan excursion that suit them.

Just talking about it make me want to start planning our next cruise.

So have you cruised before? If so, tell us why your love cruising.

The Happiest Place on Earth (or Water?)

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This is the picture from our first cruise experience with Disney Cruise. It was one of the most memorable vacation with our kids. At first we didn’t know what to expect and weren’t sure if we would enjoy stuck in a ship for the full 4 days. I guess if we had to be stuck anywhere, Disney was a good bet to be stuck with.

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The Disney ship is not as big as other more popular cruise lines like Carnival or Royal Carribean.  But what lack in size, they made up in design, deco and services. As soon as we stepped on the ship, we almost forgot that we were on a cruise ship instead on another one of Disney Theme park except it was floating! There were plenty of activities everyday that we lost count and couldn’t possibly do everything. One of the fun activity that kids of all ages would enjoy was meeting the characters. It was like our little treasure hunt game.

When we went on the cruise, Mr. Z just turned 2. People might not feel like it’s worth the money to do the cruise when he was that young. But with Disney Cruise, it was well worth it. we didn’t have to pay for the kid price so we only had to pay for tax and port fee. Money saving alert!! :) There were plenty activities for him to do and they also provided baby sitting service if we required. Another big plus for parent with toddler was a separate pool that Disney built just for the baby and toddler who are still in diaper. In other cruise lines, kids in diaper are prohibited to use the pool and there are no other options for parents.

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A private island – Castaway Cay was one of our favorite as well. We could roam the island and enjoy a relaxing day on the beach. There were food serving all day. There were plenty of water and beach activities for the whole family and there were also kids club lead by Disney employees for youngster to enjoy time alone from the parents.

I can’t wait till we plan for another cruise trip. This time I want to stay longer!

Check out other travelers’ Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.