As someone who’s never set foot on a Disney property, I’ll admit that when my husband and I began discussing the two main contenders for our next getaway – the land of The Mouse or a Carnival Sunshine family cruise – I felt excitement bubble up at what I was sure would be our impending trip to The Big D.
With so many friends raving about their Disney experiences, plus the fact that at ages 12, 9 and 6, our boys perfectly fit the have-the-time-of-their-lives demographic, in my mind, it was a no-brainer that we were headed to Florida. Except we weren’t.
To our complete astonishment, when our young brood was given the option to cast their individual votes for the destination they’d most like to experience, two of the three immediately chose the cruise. And when our indifferent third son heard about the many offerings onboard (the 24-hour self-serve ice cream station really spoke to him), he too jumped off the Disney ship. As the saying goes, we were shook.
Our sons, on the other hand, were pumped. On a daily basis leading up to the trip, they’d ask for details about the pools, big-screen movies, waterslides, video arcade, candy store, Sky Course, basketball court, mini golf setup, kids camps and buffet and restaurant options. Each time we gave them a rundown, they grew more excited. So much so that their suitcases were packed two weeks in advance and included all manner of shoes, hats, books, along with their stretchiest clothes, so they could “make the most” of the culinary experience.
Once we arrived and started exploring the ship, it was as though their wee heads might explode. Within an hour of embarking, my eldest son found and perched himself on the basketball court (where he stayed for most of the trip), my middle boy immediately began mastering the Sky Course rope park (and went on to do at least 20 run-throughs during the trip), and my youngest took turns commandeering one of the two pool tables and playing on the life-sized checkers board with whosoever would.
Throughout the duration of our trip, they also spent many hours whipping down each of the three water slides, playing multiple rounds of life-sized chess, Twister and mini golf, participated in many Ocean Club kids sessions (it was a HUGE hit with my youngest son – he was legitimately miffed when our family time interfered with scheduled programming), sat in on a Create Your Own Towel Animals session, and enjoyed a balmy night viewing of Toy Story 4. Carnival’s delicious food, comfortable beds, super-friendly staff, plus two off-ship excursions, also helped take our sojourn to the next level.
My takeaway: Rather than go the Disney route and wait in endless lines, be swarmed by countless vacationers and endure potentially sweltering heat in the process, my dudes saw the opportunity for adventure and fun in what I’d dub an almost perfect low-key family vacation that ticks all the family-friendly boxes. #nailedit
By Liz Bruckner
Liz Bruckner is a freelance writer and editor, wife, and mom to three young boys. She has an insatiable desire for travelling and has contributed to print and online publications, including Today’s Parent, Chatelaine, Best Health, Canadian Living, readersdigest.ca, where.com and Toronto.com. You can follow her on Instagram @itsmeee_lizzieb.