by Carmel L. Mooney
No better vacation exists than a family cruise vacation and Carnival has family travel down to a science with non-stop onboard activities, unbeatable shore excursions, the industry’s best day camp program for cruising youngsters, and opportunities to make family memories in exciting destinations.
Carnival’s ship, the “Miracle,” makes an exciting voyage to Belize, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, departing from the port of Tampa, Florida. This week-long cruise allows a family to enjoy some of the best localities that the Caribbean has to explore. While leaving or returning from the sailing, take in the exciting facets of the Tampa, Clearwater areas with other amazing destinations like Disney World and Epcot Center close by as well.
Like Carnival’s other 22 majestic fun ships, the Miracle is an 88,500-ton floating vessel of pure beauty, that accommodates an impressive 2,124 passengers. The real Miracle is that although the ship is large and hosts many guests, its beautiful spacious deck plan allows families and couples plenty of space to find privacy and quiet moments to get away and read a book, play a game, or simply gaze off the deck and watch the ocean float by.
With Camp Carnival, the cruise industry’s leading children’s onboard program, kids can relish in scavenger hunts, dance parties, “coke-tail” parties, slumber parties, movies, crafts, games, and endless “fun ship” pastimes.
“Families are an important and growing market for Carnival, which has experienced a 350 percent increase in the number of children sailing aboard the ‘Fun Ships’ over the past decade. And Carnival Miracle, with its enthusiastic youth staff, fun-filled activities, and state-of-the-art facilities is a perfect example of the direction we have taken in catering to the unique vacation needs of our younger guests,” said Bob Dickinson, Carnival president, and CEO.
In addition to the full schedule of fun, morning-til-night activities, Camp Carnival features expansive indoor play areas – some as large as 4,200 square feet – stocked with a wide variety of games and toys. “Camp Carnival” activities are held from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. under the watchful eyes of the ship’s youth staff, who also conduct babysitting services from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., as well as from 8 a.m. to noon for children under 2 on port days. The cost for babysitting is $6 per hour for the first child and $4 per hour for each additional child in the same family.
Carnival carries more than half a million kids per year and knows what kids love. Arts and crafts centers, including spin and sand-art machines, “activity walls,” indoor climbing mazes, and computer labs are also featured on several vessels. Most recently, Carnival has added new activities, including programs emphasizing reading, art, music, geography, and physical fitness. Outdoor play areas with mini basketball hoops, jungle gyms, and other playground equipment, as well as game rooms offering the latest video and arcade games, are available fleet-wide.
“Fun in the sun-seekers” also enjoy acres of deck space for Carnival’s outdoor games and activities such as ping-pong, volleyball, and shuffleboard, along with multiple swimming options, including children’s wading pools and main Lido deck pools offering cascading water slides.
If the kids love plays, music, and dancing, there are Broadway-style shows for the whole family to enjoy together with the added option of mom and dad going to the show alone “date style” while the kids enjoy the show with their friends in Camp Carnival as the fun, friendly, and attentive camp counselors supervise.
Children’s turn-down service offering freshly baked chocolate chip cookies at bedtime is available, along with charming towel animals created by the staff.
Carnival’s optional “Fountain Fun Card” program is good for unlimited soft drink purchases throughout the cruise for guests under age 18. The cards, purchased once onboard, range in price from $12 on three-day voyages to $32 for eight-day voyages.
Carnival features some of the largest staterooms in contemporary cruising with a wide range of accommodation categories, including extra-roomy 230-square-foot family staterooms on the line’s “Destiny-” and “Conquest-class” ships, with some interconnecting, ideal for large families or family gatherings.
Carnival Miracle also offers stroller rentals for use both aboard ships and during port calls.
Other kid-friendly features include “Wizards,” a high-tech game room, along with several “just for teens” activities, including teen shore excursions in which teens get together and select their favorite shore tour and then visit the destination accompanied by a member of the youth staff.
The Carnival Miracle’s fun ship itinerary includes the gorgeous country of Belize, where cave tubing down rivers through rainforests, sport fishing, snorkeling, and exotic zoos are only a tiny fraction of the amazing activities awaiting Carnival cruisers visiting Belize if choose to partake in a shore excursion. The beautiful ports of Cozumel and Grand Cayman offer magical sites such as Mayan ruins, world-class diving and water sports, shopping, sightseeing, historical tours, ATV tours, and horseback riding.
Carnival has a way of picking ports with unparalleled beauty, and activities to keep all ages intrigued and busy both on and off the ship. Of course, no rule says your family cannot savor the art of doing nothing. This is made easy with several pools on board and impeccable 24-hour service along with restaurants and food bars always open throughout the ship. Merely basking by the pool or pampering the whole family at the spa are also top preferences for many families.
Wonderful gourmet menus are offered at every meal on the Miracle as it is on every Carnival ship, along with 24-hour ice cream and pizza bars, midnight buffets, a special children’s menu, and 24-hour complimentary stateroom service where hungry tummies can enjoy food or dessert any time of the day or night.
Both parents and children appreciate Carnival’s new exclusive alliance with world-renowned French Master Chef Georges Blanc. Carnival offers menu selections fleet-wide in all its formal dining rooms created especially for Carnival by master chefs directed by Chef Georges Blanc and his staff who have earned the coveted three-star rating from Guide Michelin.
“Dining is a highlight of the Carnival vacation experience and this new alliance with Georges Blanc—one of Europe’s most celebrated and recognized chefs—is indicative of the tremendous emphasis we place on this important aspect of our product,” said Bob Dickinson, Carnival president, and CEO.
For those who haven’t experienced a family cruise and who might have reservations about the experience for their first time cruising, Carnival offers a win/win vacation guarantee. The only program of its kind in the cruise industry launched in 1996, it provides that guests may disembark in the first U.S. port of call for any reason and receive a pro-rated refund for the unused portion of their cruise fare, along with reimbursement for coach air transportation back to the ship’s home port.
CEO Bob Dickinson explains, “Many people hesitate to cruise because they’re afraid they might not like it-that maybe they’ll be bored, feel confined, or simply won’t like their fellow shipmates. Once onboard we know they are going to have a great vacation experience. The key is to get them to give it a try, though, and the vacation guarantee is an excellent way to achieve that.”
With 24 hours a day of safe fun for kids and teenagers of all ages, top quality entertainment and cuisine, and impeccable childcare, most cruising families are quickly hooked on the family cruising experience and return time and time again on different ships to try different itineraries.
You have nothing to lose in trying the greatest way for a family to vacate the rat race and enjoy a quality vacation at an affordable price with Carnival Fun Ships.
For more information contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL, or visit www.carnival.com
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Carmel L. Mooney is a travel columnist and radio talk show host who cruises frequently with her family. Her family’s favorite cruise line is Carnival. Can you tell?