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  1. I've taken my 3 yo on a stingray excursion in Grand Cayman and I don't know that I would recommend it. She's tall, strong, active and has been swimming at least weekly since she was born, so she's not afraid of water or water creatures. The stingray petting tank at the local aquarium is very familiar to her, she can name multiple kinds of stingrays, etc. And even so, the water was too rough/deep to let her really control her own paddling around and the stingrays are pretty huge. She loved riding the boat and when we stopped for some shallow water snorkeling and paddled around that was pretty great. We had more fun beaching and swimming than with the stingrays. She was just too physically little to really enjoy it, and she's 99% for height, 95% for weight.
  2. My 3 yo is 44# 46". We have a Frontier because she outgrew the carseat in my husband's car and I wanted to find something she could stay in harness mode for as long as possible. For travel, we're looking forward to the booster options, but mostly we just minimize car travel - take the train to a ship, or airplane to a bus to a ship.
  3. Holy cats! I feel like the Frontier is super heavy to travel with - thank you so much for the blow by blow of how it worked for you! I wouldn't have thought of hauling it with me, but its nice to know it can be done.
  4. I'm going to go the other way and say that your plan sounds fine to me! I've split a group before - my siblings and I cruised together and one of us had to catch an early flight so they did self assist, and the rest of us had breakfast. You know your kids, if you think they can handle the long debarkation line and luggage without it being a nightmare, I think you'll be fine through customs. Like all interactions with authority, don't volunteer information they don't ask for. Treat what you're doing like a perfectly normal logistical choice (it is) and customs will probably be fine. Debarkation day customs agents want to get everyone processed without trouble. If you both have cell phones, you'll be close enough to shore to use them, stay in touch, coordinate as needed. I'd do it, but I'm comfortable traveling solo with small people. If hubby can wrangle one of the big bags on his way out, that could be helpful. 4 & 5 is big enough to be moderately reliable though. The biggest risks I see are line wrangling meltdowns and the possibility of a slightly longer chat at customs. Both sound like manageable risks to me. (May be different if you have mobility issues, squirmier than average kids, or another reason why customs could be tetchy - non US citizen, etc)
  5. All of the Carnival ships we've been on had at least a small kids playground. On the Sunshine its right next to the kids club, and they do close it to the public to take the kids on, but its enclosed with a gate. It was good for our active 2.5 year old, but pretty small. Kids clubs are going to all be basically good, but will differ by the staff and how many kids are there. We've had a couple of cruises with AMAZING kids club staff, and one with perfectly fine but not above and beyond staff. Its going to amount to what your kid likes, which is hard to predict. Try it, if your kiddo would rather hang out in the pool with you, you'll know. We usually introduce her to the kids club, the pool, and the playground on the first day and then ask her what she wants to do. If you pick up a schedule from the kids club you can make sure that your child is there for the safari party or pirate activities or whatever sounds fun to them and misses out on anything that doesn't sound great for them. (We skip movie time, my kid can sort of handle a movie after she's had 6 hours of running around, so an afternoon movie would be better spent tossing her in a pool so we can hope she sits through dinner.)
  6. I think it comes down to knowing the kids involved! My daughter was 2.5 on her first cruise, she was day time potty trained so could go in the pool and we were on Carnival so she went to the Kid's Club and both of those were really important for her - she's highly social and active. Kids who are more introverted may not like the kid's club as much, kids who don't need to have as much gross motor may not be as interested in the pool. Whatever you decide, you're going to have a great time! I love cruising with my little one and I'm trying to convince her grandparents to come with us some time. Remember that you don't have to do everything, and just focus on doing what is fun for you at that point. We've had some great times staying on the ship on a port day and getting dance floors to ourselves, ordering Shirley Temples and making friends with bartenders. Kids are happy, ships are fun.
  7. I don't have everything in packing cubes, but I do have specific things segregated out into their own cube or stuff sack. And for clothes I don't want to get wrinkled I LOVE the packing folders from Eagle Creek. They're compression so they can pack a fair amount into a neat, small space. But for cruises I'm usually extremely casual so I'm more likely to use Tom Bihn stuff sacks for socks/underwear/cables/medicines/anything small and lumpy and just let my two bathing suits and a coverup fight it out in the bottom of my bag. Folders get used for work travel where I care more. For my kid, cubes are pretty useful, but again, cruises are pretty casual so her two swim suits and a pair of shorts also don't need much organization. We don't do themed outfits for dinner - we usually bring one dressy outfit, and the rest is play clothes. Twice the swimsuits and cash, half of everything else. She gets a backpack she packs with toys, and her clothes go in our bags. I do put one outfit for each of us in a cube that goes in the carry on.
  8. I agree that going for more days gets you a gentler crowd. Also look at your cabin location, aim for a quieter spot on a quieter floor so you can get some peace if you need it. The hot tubs and pool are going to be loud - Carnival sets up the pool deck as a party zone even on week long Canada cruises, which frankly gets surreal. (deserted, foggy and 40 degrees F... and they're playing steel drums and a dude is walking around with boozy pineapples... okay.) Spring Break is going to be a tough time, so look for a longer cruise on a ship that has seperate spaces that can develop different vibes, and hope the hard drinkers pick one pool and you can hang out at the other one. An older ship might at least attract quieter drunks? good luck!
  9. With toddlers and my chronic pain issue, its worth it. Lines are deadly to my family right now. With teenagers, I'd skip it. You're not going to need the room for early nap time. Hopefully they can keep it together in line and then go eat everything on the buffet. Normal embarkation is pretty well handled, its not a major difference.
  10. You've gotten a good overview! I heartily second the Faster To The Fun, if only for faster lines on embarkation. Small people can have trouble with waiting in long lines and its easier to limit that when you can. I love cruises with my 3.5 year old and she's been on 3 so far. We have some of the best family time and pretty much stick to Carnival with her. The kids club has been great - my daughter is active and social so its a good place for her. We give her the choice of kids club or swimming or whatever and she chooses a fair amount of club time. She's also ditched us for dinner, preferring to do dinner "with her friends" (We planned to keep her with us for dinner, we like eating as a family, but she saw the club setting up for kid dinner and just left us. Now we ask her what she wants to do for dinner.) Embarkation day - have some snacks and a couple of new to them small toys - we like a water wow tablet and a car or a dinosaur. She has her own small backpack that she puts things in for travel. Get through the line and go check out the kids club, get the kids introduced and they'll give you a ship phone if they have any and your kid is very young. The phone is very useful, don't lose it. It can call or be called by any of the rooms on the ship. If your kids like to swim and are fully potty trained you can have have swim suits in carryon. Sailway is going to be by the nature of the child - quiet kids might really enjoy it. My pinball of a child waves good bye to the land and then wants to join in the dance party. One of the things we've loved about Carnival is the ubiquitous excellent care of children - all of the staff, not just the kids club staff, seem to take really good care of kids. The taco stand guy who befriended her and would run the fresh tortilla machine so she could watch (and get only fresh tortillas). The bartender who learned her favorite drink and would prepare it with serious flourish (orange soda with extra cherries). The dinner staff who kept dinner within her patience level every night. If you need help, you'll get it. Tip them as well as you can. Sea days we spent swimming, eating tacos, napping, watching the family movie on tv, swimming some more. Its not complicated time, but its very fun and literally the best family time I know. You get to be very close as a family without anything stressful - food and clean sheets are all taken care of!
  11. Oh we had fun with our 3 year old in Cozumel. We did one of the beach clubs that also had a child water park. None of the ship's excursions worked for us, we just got a day pass independently. Took a cab (took some great pictures of her in the cab with her sunglasses looking like she did this every day) played and swam and snacked and played and swam and then went back to the ship for nap time. It wasn't a high impact day - we did a stingray snorkeling trip on a different stop that was amazing - but it was a good day. My kid is very active, so a day spent swimming and splashing down a bunch of small water slides is about perfect for her. In general 3 is little for ship excursions - we found we basically had to do independent ones and that was a little nerve wracking for us but worked out fine.
  12. This won't help you for the 1 year old, but for your 4 year old, if you're going to be doing taxis and such frequently, we've loved our mifold booster for travel. (Or even carpooling or other logistical issues.) Its a fully certified booster seat that folds up to about the size of a clutch purse. I wouldn't use it for full time use or a really long trip, but for hopping in and out of cabs in various places its been awesome. You unfold the plastic seat, pull out the hip belt arms, have the kid sit on it, clip the waist belt in, do any adjustment needed for the shoulder belt strap, clip the shoulder strap in and you're good. We travel enough and run around the city enough that having one has been worth it. When my kid was too little for the mifold, we did shuttles to avoid needing a carseat after getting off an airplane. Good luck!
  13. We're a couple of years behind you - our kid is 3 - and have found Carnival to be basically fine for family cruises. We're probably going to move to Celebrity over all, but haven't tried Celebrity with kid yet. I go on cruises for peace and time looking at water. We've found Carnival to be incredibly supportive of family time - good family activities when we wanted them, great child care and clubs, and the serenity areas are always peaceful, and the staff have been universally excellent with kids. Bartenders remembering her favorite drink, the taco stand guys making her fresh tortillas because she liked to watch the machine, room stewards with eternal patience and charm. The kids club is, I think, the best in the business. I prefer the age separation, I think you get better care for little ones and the care takers have a better idea of what's developmentally appropriate. Carnival kids clubs have just seemed warmer and more accommodating to me, less tacked on because they have to, and more focusing on their youngest customers having a great time too. We tend to go for longer cruises or 'weird' itineraries - Belize or Canada. Families are not uncommon, and she usually gets to adopt grandparents by the truckload. They're going to have music and goofy things by the pool, but I've loved swimming with my daughter during a dance party, she laughed so much! And then I can go back to my balcony and have quiet. For us cabin and location matters a lot - aim for a mostly quiet cabin location very near where your kids are going to want to be. Balcony cabins on the pool deck have been great for us. Just far enough away from the pool to be out of the music, but close enough to get a tired kid back from the pool or a hungry kid to the buffet without fuss. Food is not fancy. We typically do the specialty restaurants a few times just to break it up, and ask for extra veggies at dinner because we're used to eating more plants than they normally serve. I'm fine, but my husband gets antsy for a richer cuisine environment after most of a week.
  14. So I've been on 2 cruises so far, one when my daughter was 2.5 and one when she was just 3. Sleeping turned out to be basically fine. She never slept in a stroller until we're on a cruise ship and then she'll sleep anywhere when she gets tired. And she gets very tired with all of the running around and things to do! So at home we have black out curtains and specific lullabyes and a whole timed out ritual. On ship? We heft her in the general direction of the bed and hand her the stuffed animal of the day, she mumbles something and is OUT. We came home from the most recent cruise with an album full of pictures around the theme of "child sleeping in unusual places" - on the boat coming back from the shore excursion, on a chair at the bar, on the lido deck even though our room was also on the lido deck, draped halfway onto her bed, etc etc. There's always one night where she stays up way too late, but we watch a movie together and have quiet time. I think next cruise I won't even take the curtain magnets.
  15. I'm solidly on Team Get A Decent Stroller. I have a very active (now) 3.5 year old who has done 2 cruises. She loves them, she has a blast, its the best family time money can buy. But the days are big. She hadn't slept in a stroller ever until we got on a cruise ship. She'd get overwhelmed and climb into her stroller and pull the shade down like a celebrity avoiding paparazzi. And then usually sleep a bit. It was less about being able to carry her and more about her having a space that was hers and calming. But you want it to be comfortable to push, with a nice big sunshade and some storage. Borrow one from a friend. Check out Craigslist. I love my toddler carrier too, but its an entirely different experience. Not as good for hot places and not as good at being personal space for her. Great for her being able to see things and for places with stairs/cobblestones/etc. If you're going to Europe, get a toddler carrier. If you're going to the Caribbean, get a stroller. Don't buy a new one for either experience.
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