March 05, 2012

The Cruise Review - Our First Family Vacation

I hope you don't mind me sharing our trip with you.  We'll be back to regular crafting tomorrow.

On Sunday morning we loaded up everything and put the boys in the car.  Before we even pulled out of the garage Baden said, "When are we going to be there?"  Jeff and I laughed pretty hard about that and wondered if we would survive the day.

I took a LOT of ideas from you guys to make the 10 hour drive easier for the kids.  We made a dollar store run and I even wrapped our purchases like presents.  Plus, my mother-in-law made bags for them to open in each state.  We used her bags one way and the dollar store stuff the other way.  The glow sticks were fun at night, too.  Thanks again for your help!

The boys did way better than I thought they would in the car.  They didn't nap at all, but they were pretty patient.  We hardly used the DVD player.

I love driving through canyons.

We passed Vegas.

Whenever we stopped Rex was sure to "stretch his legs."  He always hears his dad talking about stretching his legs (because his dad goes on 5 hour long bike rides).  He takes a lot of pride in being a mini-daddy.

We stayed at a cheap hotel that night.  I was still hungry, so my husband went out to grab some food for me while I tried to put the boys down.  Our boys don't normally share a room, so trying to get them to fall asleep together was very, very challenging during the whole trip.  When my husband came back he and I squished into the bathroom together and ate Taco Bell food quietly, praying the boys would finally fall asleep.  Did I mention it was our anniversary?  I thought it was a pretty funny way to celebrate it :)

The next day we headed to the port.

The boys were so excited to get on the boat.  I had never been on a cruise before, so I was pretty excited myself.  

Cruise ships are MASSIVE!  I'm not really sure how the the boat even floats.

It rained the first day and we had really cold weather during the whole trip.  It was still warmer than home, so I didn't mind.  However, the pools weren't heated and one of the things I had been so excited about was that our ship had waterslides on it.  The water was like hose water - freezing.  Add that to the wind and cold temperature.  No watersliding for us.  Bummer.  We did at least get to spend some time in the hot tubs with the boys.  (Don't worry.  It was more like a warm tub, so the boys were fine.)

We saw a rainbow one day.

Our first stop was Catalina Island, which was really pretty.  

We rented a golf cart and drove around the town.  Baden was really scared of the golf cart in the beginning, but by the end he was sad to turn it back in.

We visited the small Botanical Gardens there.  There was this big building at the top and Rex wanted to reach it before any of us.  He's a hiker.  Can you see little Rex in the picture?

It was fun to watch the boys explore.

I call this picture "prickly."  Ha!

Our other stop was Ensenada, but frankly there wasn't much to do there.  We went into town and looked at a few shops and got back on the ship.  The last day was a full day on the ship. 

I'm glad we did the trip, but it was all a little different than I thought it would be.  Our kids are always on a schedule and we've always been really firm about it.  They don't miss naps.  They go to bed on time.  All that is pretty tricky in one little shared room.  They wouldn't go to sleep. They just got over-tired and that made tantrums during the day a little too frequent.  They didn't like the Kid's Club, so we didn't have much alone time.  (The Kid's Club was fine, but they were so tired that they freaked out when we even mentioned it.)

In hindsight, I think we'd try a different cruise line (because I wasn't a big fan of the food) and probably go without the kids if we ever did a cruise again.  (Or we'd wait till they were a bit older.)

I was really impressed with the staff on the cruise.  They were my favorite part.  They were so friendly and kind.  They were extremely outgoing to our kids.  

Baden got to interact with a lot of people, which was good for him.  He usually just scowls at everyone, but he started to come out of his shell.  This is my favorite picture from the trip because it's SO him.  He loves his "Twitty" coat and his little Paul Frank "monkey hat" which he always pulls down over his eyes like this.  He fit right in sporting them with his leisure pants on the boat.  People got a kick out of him.

So that's the trip in a nutshell.  I'm really glad we got the chance to do it.  I think we learned a lot about traveling together.  It was great to spend some time together as a family and I'm grateful I had my husband to laugh with during the difficult moments.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Glad you were able to get away for a bit, we just got back from a San Diego trip and had similar experiences with the kids of their schedules - I guess it's the sacrifice to make family memories. And happy anniversary!

  2. Thanks for sharing the details of your trip - I love to read about such things. We're fortunate to be able to travel fairly frequently and really enjoy cruises. In the past, we'd done them by ourselves and left the kiddo with grandma, but, last time, we splurged and took the kiddo AND grandma and got them their own room. It was much less enjoyable (though it would have been even less so with her in our room!). She didn't like the kids camp either, never got a nap, and, even with Grandma to entertain her, still whined because she wanted to hang out with US all the time.

    So, don't give up on cruising, but maybe wait until you can go without the kiddos. And definitely try some of the European ones (we've done a lot of Royal Caribbean out there, though we also enjoyed Carnival) - it's pretty awesome to cruise around the Mediterranean and get off in fabulous cities that you've heard about all your life.

  3. I'm glad you guys had a fun trip! That's funny that Baden asked when you'd be there in the garage. :)

  4. Sounds like a cool experience, and sounds 'real' too! We go on a trip every Christmas break (just to north dakota, don't get too excited ha.) and a lot of people think it sounds super shiny, and it's really fun but its also exhausting with 2 kids whose schedules are put off. Last year I put my foot down and made sure the schedules were a bit more kept to (we go with my extended fam) and it was a bit better... I totally recommend busting out for a Family Suite with a mini room of little bunkbeds in it if you ever stay in a hotel that has one and you need more than one night btw, totally worth the extra money! We tried out a fancier hotel last year but it didn't have the family suites and we totally regretted it! Canad Inns with Family Suite all the way if you ever stay in Grand Forks ND ;)

    I'm kind of itching to go on a trip with the hubby somewhere warm while I'm in my 2nd trimester, I was thinking with the whole fam but you have refreshed my memory on how that kindof works out, lol. Olivia would never remember so it wouldn't be worth it for her, I wonder how it'd be to take just Nicole somewhere... hmm...

  5. Cruises are so enjoyable without the kiddos. I went a year before I got pregnant and that was the most enjoyable AND relaxing trip ever! You know how all you do is run around on vacations because you want to see every thing, we'll for me at least (kids free of course) you get the best of both worlds at a reasonable price! We have yet to take a family vacation with our 3 year old so I can only imagine :) Kuddos to you!

  6. I'm glad I'm not the only one- When I went on a carnival cruise I hated the food.

  7. WOW!! What a fun vacation!!

  8. Who did you cruise with? I'm always interested because I like cruising myself, and always try different lines because I haven't found my favorite yet :)

    1. It was Carnival. I've heads great things about Princess and a couple on the cruise told us Celebrity cruises were incredible.


  9. We had this big dual family cruise planned back in 2006, and guess who ended up too pregnant to cruise. Booooo. One of my close friends knew how excited I was and when she found out I was too pregnant she was scared to tell me. Didn't wanna break my pregnant heart. Aaah, memories. I think the hotel bathroom story is pretty funny. Andy fyi, I used to have a Wemberly Worried (its a book) but she's growing out of her shell these days. I'm glad you were able to find the joy in the trip. Welcome back, your sister was very kind to us in you absence :)

  10. Dear Cheri,

    I'm glad you were able to get away and have your cruise. My husband and I went on one for our honeymoon. If you are looking for a different cruise line I recommend Celebrity Cruises. The food was incredible. I told everyone I knew to take a cruise just for the food alone. We went to Bermuda and the weather didn't cooperate like on yours; we were there during the only tropical deression to hit the island in like 40 years. It rained a lot! I would love to take a cruise again someday but right now I would rather put the money into remodeling my house. Glad that overall you had a nice time.


  11. Looks like a great trip! We have done the Mexican Riviera twice leaving from Long Beach (isn't that where you left from)...both times disappointed that it was SO cold on the boat unless we were in port in Mexico. I didn't bring the right clothing for the trip so I froze most of the time. But it's a fun experience. My husband isn't sold on doing another one anytime soon though. We've found all inclusive resorts to be much more our style.

  12. You should have gone to La Bufadora (the blowhole) in Ensenada!

  13. What a FUN trip. I would love if you did a round up of all the car activity ideas. I'm going to have to review the comment reel on that post. We have traveled a lot with our boys since all of our family lives far away, but we rely on the DVD player too much. So I would like to make our trip more memorable with other activities.

    You look adorable in Kelly green too. :) Glad you all had a fun safe time. Sorry the boys were sad some of the time. That is one thing about planning fun things with kids. There is always a few moments when you doubt why you planned this supposedly *fun* activity. :) Serenity NOW!

  14. I had never been on a cruise until last year. We took a Disney cruise. We have a 2 and 3 year old and they loved it.
    My husband loved it so much he scheduled another one later in the year. They cater to kids and to the adults. They always have a kids menu and bend over backwards to make meals easy. The adult menu is amazing. I have never had such a great experience. Try it next time...if there is a next time. :)

  15. Okay, your part about sitting in the bathroom eating Taco Bell literally made me LOL!! That is SOOO something my husband and I would do! hehehe We are very strict about keeping our boys on their schedule, no matter where we go, and people always looked at us funny if we had to leave an event to go put them down for their naps. I always say do whatever works best for YOUR family, and keeping ours on such a predictable schedule was what worked best for us. No shame in that! ;) Good news is, it does get easier as they get older. Our boys are now 9 and almost 6...nap times are over...but bedtime schedule is still a necessity. We are going on vacation to South Carolina this summer, and I'm really looking forward to my little guy's first trip to the beach! :)Glad you guys had a good time!

  16. You drove right past my house! Its about 20 minutes from that gorge you took a picture of. I recognize it! Cool :)

  17. Vacationing with kids isn't all that it's cracked up to be! Not to be negative but I remember thinking, we saved up for this??? I think you guys would love camping, you should try that out next time. Glad your home safe and sound, and your boys look like great models for the cruise lines.

  18. What a great trip! It's so fun to get away from the everyday and try something new. We have been kicking around the cruise idea for a while. Maybe it's time to book one! Thanks for sharing your great photos Cheri.

  19. Thanks for sharing your honest experience! Sounds like it was a great adventure. And as with all adventures, there are ups and downs. Reading about your trip reminds me of our own family trips when our three boys were young and feisty. Oh, the challenge of sharing one hotel room with three kids who didn't want to go to sleep and who desperately needed it!

  20. WoW! A cruise for a first holiday is seriously hardcore impressive. Our holidays (rare events) are merely a trip an hour or so up the road and involve the beach and lots of takeaway. You guys went all out!! I love the adventures you had and the lessons learned along the way. I love that you stepped out of your comfort zone and routines and discovered how much you love about home too. Welcome back x

  21. How funny! As I published my comment, an ad for Carnival cruises came on TV. It's a sign.

  22. We did the same cruise last January with four kids (ages 4-10 at the time), and we kind of came to the same conclusion. Cruising was more fun without kids. Catalina was nice ( we did the golf cart, too) but Ensenada seemed like they just wanted to get you in the bars or to buy cheap junk. Even at La Bufadora, you have to go through a huge long gauntlet of shops in order to get to the blowhole, and then we had to return the same way, with four kids begging to stop at almost every shop along the way, because the shop owners come out and try to lure them in.

    I think next time, we'd save our money for another trip to Disneyland. It CAN be done on something of a budget, and even though we got a deal on our short cruise, we probably could have done a week at Disneyland for the same amount once excursions and gratuities and all that stuff were factored in.

  23. Whoa, I totally went on this cruise at the beginning of February! I found Catalina a bit boring, and Ensenada a bit overwhelming, and unfortunately, it was chilly the whole time we were cruising.

  24. Our family has done a Disney cruise line land and sea combo that worked out well for the little ones. We had four days in Disneyworld and three days on a cruise. I think it was the perfect combo for them. For cruising with just adults I highly recommend Holland America. Fantastic food, great staff, lovely boats, everything I wanted.

  25. Cheri, we are going on that same cruise in November, for Thanksgiving! I'm so glad I read this post. I'm trying to figure out what to do for the shore excursions. I've been to Catalina Island once before, when I was a teenager, and went on the glass bottom boat. Not impressed. My DD will be six and my DS will be four when we go. How did your kids like the botanical gardens place? What would you do different? Did you feel safe in Ensenada? Do you wish you had done a shore excursion there? I hope my kids will like the Kids' Club. Oh, and we got adjoining rooms with my parents, so hopefully that will solve the grumpiness issue.

  26. Next cruise I hope is with us out of Florida. We love the cruises out of here. Well first because it's so close. Second, the caribbean is beautiful and the water is so warm. Start saving sista!
    I'm happy you guys went. My favorite picture is prickly. Love Bade's squinty face. Just like his Daddy. :)
    Love you! XXXX

  27. We just went on the most dreamy cruise! I am just starting the posts now that we are back to reality... Anyway it was my second one without kids, I was wondering how it would be WITH them. I think they would love it! We've been to the Caribbean both times- perfect weather and beautiful! Glad you got to make some fun family memories!


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