Hello all! I have been reading several forums on here over the past few days and have learned so much already, from the best kind of room to get, what deck to be on, and advice about how to stay safe and still have fun on your trip! I was hoping that anyone and everyone could offer some advice to us, because despite all the stuff we have learned we still have lots of questions. Let me give you a brief run-down:
We have never cruised before. We have not booked anything yet because we want to make sure we do it right the first time. We are willing to book well in advance, but not years away! We live in SC and are willing to go to any port on the southeast coast. I know Charleston has a fairly new port to leave out of and have heard of Carnival's Fantasy, but don't know much about the ship and if it would be perfectly suited to our wants. We would be willing to leave anywhere out of Florida since from what I've seen it offers the most options. Upper Florida is less of a drive, but my husband has family not far from Miami so we could stay with them before boarding if needed. We would like to go for at least 4-5 days, but the longer the better! We have a 4 year old daughter who is fully potty trained, fairly well behaved, and extremely social (this can be good or bad, because she has never met a stranger!). We want her to have a great time and definitely welcome family activities, but we want some adult time as well. The more stuff for her to do, the better! We want an extremely family friendly trip, but the option to use a babysitter once or twice on our dream vacation. We love to travel (especially anywhere exotic) and our favorites things to do usually end up costing little or nothing (we are frugal!). Since my husband lived in South Florida for many years, a cruise to the keys are of little interest to him unless it is a brief stop on the way to somewhere more exotic. We love beautiful scenery, visiting historic landmarks, and enjoying nature vs. man made attractions. We do like to mingle with locals and get a souvenir or two, but we'd much rather spend our money on once in a lifetime opportunities like traveling to an ancient ruin or going on a jungle adventure with a REPUTABLE guide. I'm a very cautious traveler, so please feel free to recommend any guides you have been pleased with in the past. We don't really like the group trips as much as we prefer to go off and explore mostly on our own as this is our of idea of quality family time, but very small groups are ok. As long as we can do things as a family, we are happy. I love horseback riding and have always dreamed of riding on a beach, but if my daughter can't come it will have to wait for another trip. Snorkeling would also be cool, but once again, no kids, no way! So to sum it up, please feel free to share about the following:
1) What cruise line and/or ship would you recommend for an extremely involved family vacation with a four year old, but adults can get away for a few hours too? Family activities are a top priority, so what ship in your opinion offers the most in keeping an energetic family occupied and entertained? What has been your experience with kids clubs and (evening) babysitters?
2)What adult activities on the ship offer a fun time, a little relaxation without a lot of cost, and peace of mind that while you are reacquainting yourselves as a couple your little angel is safe and sound?
3) What locations are family friendly, have beautiful sights to see and lots of low-fair cost adventures and excursions? (Once again, we prefer nature to man made but won't rule out man made if it is totally worth it!) We prefer warm, tropical climates, but we won't rule out an Alaskan adventure or a European excursion in cooler weather if you feel it would be worth checking out.
4) What shore excursions are exciting, not outrageously expensive, involve amazing sightseeing opportunities, and are family friendly, especially with a 4 year old in tow?
5) Safety is a top priority! What tips or advice would you recommend before traveling? On the ship? On shore? Do you have a favorite guide you have used in the past or experience you wish to share to help us stay safe?
6) Any travel agents that specialize in family fun that you would recommend? We live in SC, so anyone local or willing to do everything over the phone/internet would be great!
7)What pre-travel requirements (visas, passports etc) do cruise lines and ports in different countries require? Would you recommend any kind of travel insurance or fall-back plans? What kinds of thinks would you NOT advise doing if it might not be worth the time or money? (For example, some people have told me that certain travel insurance options sound good on paper but are really more of a waste of money due to never really having to be used)
8) And finally, feel free to share anything you feel may be helpful or any advice/experiences you have had in the past that would help first time cruisers! What was your favorite family cruise EVER?
I know this is a lot of information we are asking for and please don't feel you have to answer every single thing I've asked, just whatever you have read that you would like to tell me about. We are planning our dream vacation and want to be fully educated and prepared so that we can have the best time ever! Thanks so much!