Life Lessons Learned On A Carnival Cruise

Going on a cruise with your family is a stress free and extremely fun way to show your children the world. Traveling is life’s greatest classroom. Our kids grow and learn with each new thing they are exposed to and travel exposes them to new people, new sights, new sounds, new tastes, and new adventures. Many parents are reluctant to jet set around the world with young children and who can blame them? Travel can be tough on little ones. However, travel opens their little minds up to the great big world and taking your family on a Carnival Cruise let’s you show them the world outside your home and town without all the stress you might expect from international travel. My family just went on a Carnival Cruise to Cozumel and throughout each day my eyes were opened to all the lessons my son was learning. Really, we all learned a lot about life. I guess boarding a ship, letting go of the control and routine we are so used to, and leaving our comfort zones for the high seas taught us more than we imagined.


The World is a Big Place

Taking a Carnival Cruise to another country is a simple way to show your child that the world is big and there is a lot to explore. International travel can seem daunting when young kids are involved. However with our Carnival Cruise from Mobile, Alabama to Cozumel, Mexico, it was so simple! Ship time stayed on the local time so my son did not have to adjust to a big time change. We were not trapped in uncomfortable seats on an airplane for 10-12 hours. We walked aboard the Fantasy and started enjoying ourselves right away. We had lunch, played mini-golf, went on the water slides, and heard live music as soon as we boarded the ship. Traveling to Mexico was all fun and no frustration and the four day trip was the perfect amount of time for a five year old.

Whenever we were in our cabin we would turn on the tv to the channel that showed our current location on a map. We got to talk about how big the Gulf of Mexico is and how huge the entire world is compared to that. Elliott was so excited to travel somewhere so far away! We now have passports and are ready for another international adventure as a family. Elliott got a taste of the world outside of our city and now he is ready to cruise again, we just have decide where to go next!

Try Something New

While Elliott isn’t what I would call a picky eater, he can be reluctant to try something new. He just gets it in his head that he does not like something before he even tries it. At home there is nothing I can do about that. If he doesn’t want to try something, he’s not trying it. This was the case with shrimp. My husband and I love to eat shrimp and I make some pretty good homemade fried shrimp but we never have them at home anymore because Elliott is not interested and I am not interested in cooking two dinners.

There was something about the excitement of the cruise, about the presentation of the food in the restaurants and dining room, something about the change in routine, that made him more adventurous when it came to meal time. He tried foods from the buffet in the Lido Restaurant that he would not have normally tried. Of course we knew he would eat a lot of ice cream since that is available 24-7 but he also ate a lot of healthy choices, too! Then during dinner one night he quietly asked for fried shrimp and we watched in silent anticipation for his reaction. The kid who has refused to even touch a shrimp since toddlerhood gobbled down all the fried shrimp appetizer that his dad had ordered and we asked the waiter for more.

Dress for the Occasion

We live a lovely little suburban life that doesn’t lend itself to formal dinners out. Dinner out for us is a quick meal for chicken tenders, cheeseburgers, or tacos. Dressing up for dinner just doesn’t happen. However, learning to dress appropriately is an important life lesson and one that is better learned earlier than later. Dressing for the situation goes so far beyond following the dress code for dinner. How you dress can open or close doors later in life. Whether we like it or not, first impressions matter and I don’t want to raise a son who thinks athletic wear is appropriate for more formal occasions. Every evening on our cruise on the Carnival Fantasy, we had a reservation for the dining room and the dress code did not include my son’s usual tank tops and shorts. We were able to show him that for a nice dinner like this, you dress nicer. We present ourselves in a way that respects and honors the situation we were entering. The amazing dining staff worked incredibly hard every night to give us a fine dining experience and we made sure we all showed up ready to enjoy that experience the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

It can be fun to dress up, put a cloth napkin in your lap, and drink water from a fancy cup. My son actually loved that part, the fancy cup! When Manuel, our waiter, offered to bring a plastic cup, he politely declined. Making a big deal about dress and decorum got through to him and he wanted to go all in for our wonderful dinners every night. I think going forward we will have “fancy” dinners at home and all dress up. Our budget might not allow for us to go out all the time but I can make a dinner party at home. Dressing up for dinner may seem little but the lesson of being respectful in different situations is important. It takes us out of self-centered, comfort seeking ways and pushes us to be a member of a larger group in a way that is honorable.

Dance, Especially When No One Else is Dancing

Life is meant to be lived. Every day is a chance to celebrate. When music plays, why not dance? Dance parties are an every day event in our home but how we dance at home and how we dance in public can be two different things. However, it shouldn’t be like that. If you love music and you love to dance you should bust a move no matter who is watching. On our family Carnival Cruise we got to show our son that embracing moments together and dancing when the music plays is more worthy of our energy than worrying about what other people think of us. That cruise had a lot of people on it. What would I be teaching my son if I didn’t dance just like I do in our living room just because strangers were watching? I truly care more about living in a moment with my family than what other people think. So we danced, even when we were the only ones dancing. On the private island we took an excursion to in Cozumel, we danced on the beach. Even my dorky husband shook his white boy booty during a group water balloon game.

During dinner, the wait staff would put on a little dance party and for some reason all the people sitting around us stayed in their seats, politely watching the dancing without participating. When my son said he wanted to dance I jumped right up with him and we joined in on the fun. On our last night aboard the Fantasy we came across a man playing the steel drums on the Lido deck. Without hesitation Elliott and I went right up to the stage where he was playing and we danced like no one was watching. The thing is though, people were watching.

Here’s where I learned a beautiful lesson about people watching you. You think they are watching, thinking you are silly. It turns out that people watching you are enjoying the moment right along with you. Your joy is contagious and attractive. While dancing to the steel drums a woman came up to my husband (he was taking pictures of us dancing) and let him know how much she was enjoying watching us dance and how sweet we were. During our last meal in the dining room, a couple seated near us every evening came over to our table at the end to compliment us on our son and let us know that they enjoyed watching us together throughout the trip. So I won’t dance like no one is watching, I will dance like people are watching and hope that my happiness will rub off on those people watching and maybe, just maybe the next time they hear the music, they will be brave enough to join in on the fun too.

Say Yes To Fun

So often in my life I find myself saying no to opportunities because they mess with our routine. Routine is important and I am not about to throw caution to the wind and do away with bedtime. However, I did see that it is ok to mix it up every now and then, particularly when something special comes your way. A little carpe diem never hurt anyone, especially on vacation. The Carnival Fantasy is ridiculously fun. I don’t want my son to feel like he has to miss out on the good stuff because it is outside our normal routine. So we stayed up late a few nights, who cares?

We stayed up late rocking out to the Playlist Productions while they sang Motown Hits one night and Country music hits another.

We cheered on other passengers during the Hasbro Game Show!

We played innumerable games of mini golf and by the end of the cruise, Elliott was getting multiple holes in one.

Every afternoon we wore the waterslide out.

We paraded with Dr. Seuss at Sea and had a special breakfast with those characters too. Everyday the towel animals in our cabin made our sweet son smile and on the last day of the cruise, he jumped at the opportunity to learn how to fold towel animals on his own!

There were lots of opportunities on the Carnival Fantasy and we said yes to as much as we could and let the fun guide us instead of a normal routine.

This cruise on the Carnival Fantasy was a first for us as a family. We made amazing memories and mostly just appreciated time together without any distractions. There was a whole world to see from the deck of the ship and we wanted to take that world in together. We are thankful for the lessons we learned as a family. You don’t have to wait for a great vacation to enjoy the beautiful life you are living but a special trip out at sea was a wonderful way for my family to refocus on enjoying each unique day we are given together.


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Photo Credits: Kristen D.




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Kristen Douglas
Kristen lives in Alabama with her handsome hubby and sweet son, along with her cat who thinks he’s a dog. Happily, she left behind the life of a Washington D.C. attorney to be a stay at home mama in the south.

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