Cruising with Carnival has become a yearly thing for my mom and I, and this year we extended the tradition a generation by bringing my 1-year-old with us. We went for a 4 day, Halloween cruise from Long Beach with 2 stops – Catalina Island and Ensenada, Baja California. Here’s a rundown on going on a cruise with a toddler!
First off, we drove from Las Vegas all the way to the Long Beach Terminal so the first leg of our trip was a 4+ hour car ride. I made sure we were fully stocked for the ride over so we wouldn’t have to make too many stops and make the ride any longer. Turns out we didn’t need anything I packed for the ride because he slept for about 3 1/2 hours and was completely content with his tablet, a juice box, and some cheez-its when he woke up. 🤦🏾♀️🤷🏾♀️
We decided to check our bags instead of dragging them through the ship because we just knew we wanted to grab some food and explore before going back to the room. That means we had to have everything we could need on us. Here’s what I packed into our carry on/diaper bag:
Checking in with Carnival is super easy. They make dropping your checked bags off a breeze, they give you a specific time to show up so there is virtually no wait, you walk in, get scanned through security and start your vacation. It’s amazing! We just went through a 4 1/2 hour car ride so I was NOT feeling like I looked my best, but I still opted for every single photo op. They give you every opportunity to take photos to remember your vacation, and since this was baby’s first cruise we took every pic (but we didn’t buy all of them). But you DO NOT have to stop at all if you don’t want to.
I’ve never had photos taken with my tiny before so he didn’t really understand the concept of “look at the camera” while there was a giant character next to him…or at all ever! So maybe do some practicing with your toddlers if you are looking to get those perfect staged photo opportunities they will have all over the ship. We managed to make out pretty well on Elegant wear night…but that’s about it!
Food was the scariest part when planning for this cruise, as my kid is a picky eater. He eats what he wants when he wants and that’s that on that! Luckily, we were able to bring some snacks onboard that we know he likes and will eat like cheez-its, fruit cups, crackers, rice cereal, and we bought the bottled water pack to be delivered to our stateroom. The first day was a little difficult to figure out what my 1-year-old would eat from the buffet, but found that the 24-hour pizza was an easy favorite for him. We finally made it to our “reserved” dinner the 2nd or 3rd night and learned they have a whole menu for kids! They had nuggets, hot dogs, burgers, cookies, ice cream EVERYTHING he could want. We were set from there. On our excursion days, I would order a box of cereal to be delivered to our stateroom to take with us, or just fill our to-go bowl with dry cereal from the morning buffet for a snack while we were out. They really have everything you could need though as far as food goes, the buffet had a full spread of fruits and veggies if you’re health-conscious and all the burgers, burritos and pizza you could want if you’re not. They also did a Dr. Seuss breakfast one day where the staff dressed up as characters and they had Cat in the Hat there too! This was $5 a person and we didn’t make that. For me, the only thing I need to make me a happy camper is a good cup of coffee…which I did NOT find on the ship. 😭 They have coffee for free all day long in the buffet and a cute coffee shop near the casino and clubs on our ship but they all had the same coffee.
Our sleeping arrangements were not at all what we expected. The 2 twin beds that were usually in the room were pushed together to make one bed, then a small cot type bed was underneath that we could pull out and put together or leave under there for space. We were all so tired when we got back to our room every night it didn’t even matter what we slept on as long as there were blankets! But we ASKED for a pack-and-play and were told there would be a 3rd bed in the room the same size as the other 2. It definitely wasn’t, but we made it work. Our housekeeping was AMAZING and managed to put the mess we made trying to figure it all out back together every single day. He even gave us his number so we could call him if we needed anything through our trip (I’m sure EVERY housekeeper makes their info available, but he made us feel super special).
Their kid section that’s called CAMP OCEAN was only for kids 2 and over and my young man was only 21 months at the time of the cruise so he didn’t get to experience all of the fun of being in there with a bunch of kids his age, but they did give him time almost every day for an hour or 2 to come in and play with the toys and run around in the space. We were still able to attend all of the family activities like arts and crafts, trick or treating, and the Halloween party we just couldn’t leave him to hang out with everyone without us whenever we wanted. You can still leave your child with them for the “Night Owls” program for a fee.
The excursions were amazing! I thought it was going to be hard bringing him with me out and about somewhere unfamiliar but it was SO easy. Our first day off the ship was on Catalina Island. I looked up the weather ahead of time and it said it was going to be in the low 60’s so I thought it was going to be cold…but it was actually perfect weather to jump in and feel the ocean if you wanted! We brought his umbrella stroller, diaper bag and were good to go. We walked up and down the shopping strip right next to the dock, took lots of pics, had a coffee and eventually had my tiny knock all the way out. All in all, it was a beautiful success.
The next excursion day was in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. I absolutely love this place. We took the trip that took us down to the bufadora (blowhole) and then to the cultural center. The road on the way to the Bufadora is full of small shops that are selling absolutely EVERYTHING! I’ve made it a tradition to pick up a skull/skeleton made out of some kind of bone…the first time I got one they said it was cow bone and this time they said it was fishbone and they both look and feel exactly the same, so I have absolutely NO idea. My favorite thing here is the churros, tequila tasting in Habana Banana, and the young wild animals they have. I couldn’t remember if the bus had enough room to bring the stroller or if it would be easy to push down the road so I opted to babywear instead and it was another all-around success. The Bufadora was super far from where the ship was maybe about an hour, so our Amazon Fire with pre-downloaded apps and movies kept my tiny fully entertained along the way.
Our day at sea was on Halloween. We happily slept in as long as we could, grabbed some brunch (pizza) and watched Hotel Transylvania 3 before getting dressed up and ready for trick-or-treating and a kid-friendly Halloween party! My young Jack Skellington ended up winning the best-dressed baby boy! With an award fitting the Pumpkin King himself, they gave him a super cute pumpkin trophy…that he broke 12 seconds later.
All in all, I 100% recommend cruising with your toddlers, especially on Carnival Cruise. They are very very accommodating to the needs of their guests, they will keep you well-fed and properly entertained your entire trip. I recommend getting the soda package because they only offer coffee (NOT DELICIOUS), lemonade and water. I got bored of that by the first day and was BEGGING for something different. I think with the soda package you get soda and juice with it. I opted to pack a piece of regular medium size luggage for him instead of trying to share one large one since they have weight requirements per person for luggage. I stuck everything from a pack of diapers, an extra pack of wipes, bath towels, blankets and his whole wardrobe in there. We didn’t end up needing the bath towels or extra blankets because he had no skin issues with the ones provided by the ship.
Are you planning a trip with your little and have questions that I didn’t cover here? Send me an email to Contact@NikkiOnVegas.com or leave me a comment down below!