When my best friend threw her daughter a sweet sixteen party in April 2012, Angeline and I realized...her own sweet 16 was not far behind! Knowing that we would need quite a bit of time to plan and save for the event, I asked her that night if she wanted to have a party or go on a trip somewhere. Being the daughter of a travel fanatic, of course she chose a trip! We ended up deciding on a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Liberty cruise ship, and planned to take our trip during the early summer of 2013, when her friends would be able to join us without missing school.
It was honestly the best family vacation we've ever taken and I am so glad that she chose as she did!
I love cruising and I love encouraging other people to consider a cruise for their next vacation. While I've only cruised with Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines, Carnival Cruise Lines is by far my favorite. So much so, that even though I get an awesome friends and family discount on NCL, I booked Angeline's 16th birthday trip with Carnival!
5 Reasons to Book a Cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines
1. A Cruise Is a Complete Vacation With no Hidden Expenses
When you book a cruise, you know up front exactly how much you will spend on your vacation. When you book with Carnival.com, or by calling their reservations department, you see that the price you pay includes food, drinks (with the exception of soda and alcohol) and all activities on the ship except for things like babysitting late at night, and spa services. The only part of the cruise that isn't included in the quoted price you pay up front is gratuities, which your reservations agent can actually tack on to the price so you get it paid out of the way, or you can have it billed to your room once you depart on the cruise. While it is an additional fee, it is NOT hidden, and you know about it up front so that you can include it in your vacation budget, even if you decide to pay for it at the time of your cruise.
Sure, the price you pay doesn't cover wifi, alcohol, shore excursions, spa treatments or shopping - but you know ahead of time that if you want extras, you have to budget for those. There are no surprises! We have taken cruises where we didn't spend time off the cruise itself, because with all of the activities on Carnival Cruise ships, you don't have to take shore excursions. There are also some ports where you can simply get off the ship and make your own fun - no excursions necessary.
Update 2015: The Great Vacation Guarantee is an added benefit - you have the opportunity to receive a 110 percent refund, complimentary transportation home and a $100 shipboard credit on a future cruise if you are dissatisfied with your vacation for any reason. You can find out more about the Carnival Great Vacation Guarantee here.
2. You Can Explore the World with Carnival Cruise Lines
With ports of call in exotic locations spanning the globe from Key West (ha ha), the Bahamas, the Caribbean islands, South America and all over Europe, Carnival Cruise Lines can open up world wide travel to you in ONE vacation.
There are ports where you don't have to pay for an excursion, you can just get off the ship and walk into the port, like we did in Half Moon Cay and St Thomas.
While we did a Zip Line excursion in Puerto Rico, after it was over, we dropped the girls back on the ship and Chris and I headed back into town just to shop and look around. You could easily hail a cab or take a walk in San Juan and skip the shore excursion there as well!
And in Grand Turk? Same thing! Carnival ensures that most ports you visit on your cruise are just as enjoyable without paying extra for shore excursions.
Instead of booking a vacation in one country, you can see several countries in a short time spam for the price of a single vacation. We visited four different islands in one week on the Carnival Liberty ship - we'd been to the Bahamas before, but none of the other islands. It was the perfect way to see the best of the places we visited without booking an entire vacation there!
3. Whether You Want to Relax or Embark on an Adventure, Carnival Cruise Lines Has You Covered
If your ideal vacation is spending a few days by the pool, soaking up the sun and reading the latest paperback, Carnival has you covered. If you want to dine in gourmet restaurants every night, Carnival has you covered.
Want to send the kids to camp? Camp Carnival has a wonderful program for kids ages 2 to 17 - even my 15 year old daughter who is too cool for anything loved the Carnival Club O2! Whenever we couldn't find the kids, they were in the club. And of course, like most things on Carnival cruises, it is included in the price of your cruise! If you want late night baby sitting services, like the Night Owls, which runs from 10 pm to 3, it is an additional fee. If you like night clubs and evenings at the bar, this is a great way to live it up while the kids still get the most out of their vacation!
If you want to have an adventure like no other, Carnival definitely has you covered there too! We went snorkeling in Grand Turk, explored the ruins of British forts, and zip lined through the forests of Puerto Rico while on the Carnival Liberty cruise ship last week.
Of course, these excursions are at an additional cost - but as I mentioned before, you can set off on your own adventure just by walking off the ship and finding your way into town or on the beach. We planned our cruise for a year in advance, so we saved up and did the most appealing excursions for our party.
4. Carnival Cruise Lines Means FUN for the Whole Family!
No matter how old your children are, Carnival Cruise Lines has something for everyone! With water slides, two pools, whirlpools that are open to kids and adults - and a pool and whirlpool reserved ONLY for adults, your days will be filled with a ton of fun.
Camp Carnival, as I mentioned before, is open to kids ages 2 through 17, and their days are packed full of playing with Hasbro licensed toys and games, movies, video games (time is limited with the video games to prevent kids from sitting in front of the TV their entire vacation), movies, arts and crafts and scavenger hunts. Angeline was in the older program and they had karaoke parties, dance parties and lots of fun activities. Camp Carnival is also a great way for the kids to meet other children while on vacation and make lifelong friendships!
If your idea of a perfect vacation is fine dining, hitting the casino and catching Broadway-style shows, you won't be disappointed while on your Carnival cruise. Not to mention the nightly family-friendly comedy shows, followed up by adults-only shows later in the evening!
The buffets are delicious, specialty restaurants like the Blue Iguana Cantina, Pirate Pizza and Guy Fieri's Burger Joint are fantastic - and the evening dining offers gourmet dinners that are all included in the price of your cruise.
There are certain ships that have specialty restaurants where you have to pay an additional fee, like Diamond Steakhouse on the Carnival Liberty cruise ship. We were treated to a complimentary dinner by Carnival while on our cruise last week and it was seriously the best filet minon I've ever had!
Update 2015: Carnival Cruise Lines now offers Camp Ocean, an ocean-themed replacement of the Camp Carnival program, with activities centering around the ocean and newly-designed kid's spaces. Seuss at Sea is a new program on many ships that includes a parade, a Green Eggs and Ham breakfast for just $5 a person, a Seuss reading room and more! You can find out more about these fun kid's programs here.
5. Carnival Cruise Lines Offers a Variety of Deals!
Booking a cruise with Carnival Cruise lines offers the best bang for your vacation dollar, but to make it even more tempting, they are always having a great sale!
When I booked our cruise in March, I took advantage of a great Summer promotional rate, and not only did we get free upgrades to our balcony rooms on a higher floor, but we also got $200 stateroom credit! Hells yeah!! It ended up covering half of our gratuities for the cruise, so that meant more money to spend on the cruise!
We love cruising with Carnival Cruise Lines because they offer a military discount of about $50 per person, and get this - even if the military member is discharged (honorably), you still get the discount! I recently learned that I could get the discount as Chris's wife, even if he doesn't join us on a cruise, because his forms are already on file under our joint name. SWEET.
Carnival Cruise Lines always seem to have a promotion going on, whether it be the current awesome fall promotion (check out Carnival.com for details before it's over!), a former Carnival guest promotional rate, or resident rate for the port in the state you live in - the list goes on and on. When I booked our last cruise, there were three different promotions running PLUS we had the option of using Chris's military discount instead of one of those promotions. If you call in and speak to an agent, they can run through the numbers and tell you which option will save you the most money, offer the most perks, etc. The Carnival reservation agents are fantastic!
While I'm certainly no expert on cruising - at least, not yet - I have been cruising since 2006 and I love to encourage others to explore the world of cruising! If you have any questions, I'd love to help!
Or of course, you can check out Carnival.com to start planning your next vacation!