Guide to Family Cruising

Uncle and Aunt on Carnival Cruise

I love cruises. I would like to think of myself as a cruising connoisseur. I have been to the Bahamas, Cozumel, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, St. Marteen, St. Thomas, Hawaii, and Ensenada Mexico. My favorite island in the Caribbean is St. Marteen.

Carnival Cruise in Long Beach, Ca Port

I live in Los Angeles California. Thankfully, the closest cruise port is located at the Queen Mary in Long Beach California which is only a 25-minute drive from my home. Carnival Cruise lines offer various options from Long Beach. You have a variety of options such as a 7-day cruise to various parts of Mexico, 4 days to Catalina Island and Ensenada Mexico or a 3-day cruise to Ensenada. My family wanted a quick getaway and we opted for the 3-day cruise.

Family on deck on Carnival CruiseFamily posing on Carnival Cruise

Booking your Cruise

You can book your cruise via a Carnival representative or the Carnival websiteChoose between several different cabin options depending on your budget and amount of people traveling.  I went in January and booked an ocean view room for $250 per person. This cost is all inclusive and includes room, food, and entertainment. Remember its cheaper to book cruises in the Winter and Fall. 

Ocean View room on carnival cruise

 Boarding Documents

Carnival recommends that you have a passport valid for at least 6 months after travel. If you are traveling to Mexico and have a passport card, this is an acceptable travel document. If your cruise begins and ends in a US port, a birth certificate can be used as proof of US citizenship.

You will need a debit or credit card as the cruise line does not accept cash transactions on board. All purchases such as gifts, alcohol, etc will be made through your sail card which is also used as your card key to the room.

Boarding Process

Boarding begins at 12 pm on the day of departure. Most people want to board early so be warned it may be super crowded when boarding first begins. Your luggage will be brought to your room by a cruise team member. 

During this time make sure to eat lunch and explore the ship. As the boat departs, cruisers are required to participate in a safety drill in the case of an emergency. After the safety drill, join the sail away party on the upper deck before dinner.


Breakfast is usually served buffet style or you can be seated in the main dining area. A variety of options are served and should appease everyone’s taste buds.

Omelette, french toast and fruit

Lunch is usually buffet style but they have many options to choose from such as Chinese, Mexican, American, Deli etc.

Ribs, beans, and cornbreadMelting Chocolate Cake and ice cream

For Dinner, you can choose to eat buffet style or eat in the main dining room. You can choose to eat at 6 pm, 8 pm or anytime dining 5:45-9:30 pm. During cruises, you are invited to a Captains dinner.  Feel free to dress up to take pictures and meet the captain of the ship.

Jerk Chicken, potatoes, rice and peas,Peanut butter cheesecake on Carnival Cruise

If you become hungry after dinner stop by the ice cream machine or pizza station.

24-hour room service is available for a small fee of $2-6.

Most food is free except for certain dining experiences such as the steak house.

Non-Alcohol and Alcoholic Beverages

Bottomless Bubbles is an unlimited soda/juice program. $5.95 for children and $8.50 for adults per person.

Cheers Beverage Program: includes non-alcoholic and alcoholic for 21 and over. Prior to the cruise, it is $51.95 per person and day of the cruise is $56.95 plus 18% gratuity for the entire duration of the cruise. Each adult in the room has to purchase the beverage package.

During breakfast, various juices are offered,  during lunch water and lemonade is offered for free.


Ice Sculpture on Carnival Cruise

Every morning you will receive a written itinerary in the form of a newsletter. This will tell you about all the events that are happening around the boat.

  • Spa and hair treatments
  • Sports and outdoor fun
  • Live musical and theatre shows.
  • Demonstration and dance classes
  • If you enjoy gambling, check out the Casino
  • Be a participant in the Hasbro game show to win great prizes.
  • Purchase items such as gifts, jewelry, candy, clothes etc.
  • They have several pools on the ship, some pools, and jacuzzis are for adult use only.
  • Want to stay fit? Check out the gym, yoga classes or run around the track on the boat.

Carnival Imagination Pool


Check out Carnival website to determine which wifi package will suit your needs. I ordered a wifi package to keep me connected to my social media sites such as Instagram, Whatsapp, Facebook, and Twitter. Download the Carnival HUB App to find out what’s happening around the boat and to communicate via chat with other people on board.

Shore Excursions

My favorite part of cruising is exploring different cities. If you want to save money book your own excursions when you leave the boat. I walked into town and had the best hot stone massage and facial for only $50. 

Hot Stones and OilMasseuse in Mexico

After returning to the cruise ship, I used my $50 onboard credit to book an excursion to ride ATV’s and wine taste.   You are not obligated to book with the cruise line but be warned if you come back late on a non-cruise excursion they can leave the port without you.

ATV Riding in Ensenada MexicoATV Riding in Ensenada Mexico at WineryCheese and Bread during wine tastingWines and Wine Menu in Ensenada Mexico

Day Care

Camp Ocean is for children ages 2-17 years old. Camp counselors keep the children busy with arts, crafts, and ocean-related activities. This service is complimentary until 10 pm. If you need additional services from 10pm-1am a fee will be charged. My family utilizes these services and the children love going to camp every day.

Service Gratuities

It is customary to provide gratuities to dining, room, and culinary staff. For standard staterooms, the fee is $13.99 per day. You can prepay gratuities or pay while on board. The staff is super awesome and helpful.

Things to Pack

  • Passports/Birth Certificate
  • Clothesline to dry swim close
  • Clothes/Swimwear/Watershoes
  • Waterproof camera or phone case
  • Sweater- for chilly evenings
  • A cruise lanyard to keep your sail away card
  • Power strip as outlets are limited in the room
  • Water bottle so you don’t have to keep refilling small cups
  • Wipes: Huge boat with lots of people = lots of germs
  • Fanny pack to wear around the boat and when you get off
  • Medicine: Don’t forget to bring normal meds and Dramamine in the event of sea sickness
  • Formal Wear for captains dinner

on cruise stairs during elegant nightSelfie in Carnival Cruise

Formal Night (orange and black dress from Rainbow Shopping Stores )
Captains Dinner- Formal Wear 

Cruising is very cost effective for families. Certain cruises offer the option of solo cabins at no extra fee. I love going on cruises because it requires little planning and it is inclusive. I know some people have a love-hate relationship with cruising but I would recommend that you try a cruise.   Do you enjoy cruising? If not, why don’t you enjoy cruises? If so what is your favorite part?

Posing at the winery



  1. I’ve been on a cruise once, and I was alone, but I definitely want to take my kids on one at some point. Thanks for the pointers.

  2. We want to do Disney Cruise but those prices are so up there that we might do something else instead. I would love to go on one next year for Spring break though

  3. I enjoy short 3-4 day cruises. Not sure if I can endure any longer as I may either start to feel claustrophobic or start worrying about germs.

  4. It sounds like you had a great time as always. My family does a family cruise at least once a year. My immediate family and I have yet to go. I do want to experience it at least once. That is their favorite way to travel.

Please tell us your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.