Disclosure: Thank you Carnival for hosting me aboard your beautiful vessel. All opinions expressed are my own!
Can I be honest? I was very nervous to step so out of my comfort zone and leave my family for five days. I talk a big game about the importance of self care and carving out time for ourselves, but truthfully, I’m really bad at it. I know my family is more than capable, but I value my work as a mom and homemaker. However, this has been my full time business for four years. So, I also found myself realizing I deserved a reprieve from the mundane, even if I do think its beautiful. Truth be told, I’ve been walking through a weird time in my life. It has been made very clear in my life recently that time goes by so quickly. I’ve blinked and suddenly my sweet boys are half grown and I’m here wondering where I fit into everything.
So, I said yes. I took a cue from my friend Joleen and her 2020 commitment to say yes, to step outside what feels comfortable, and I packed my bag. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, and while I will absolutely be sharing more specifically about the conference portion of our event. This first post is dedicated strictly to the Carnival Paradise
The first thing I want to touch on is the affordability of cruising with Carnival. I’m passionate about travel being affordable for all, and Carnival really impressed me with its cost effectiveness. Like many cruise lines, it looks like Carnival offers special pricing to Florida residents and it rewards people from other states if they schedule early. I strongly recommend getting on their electronic mailing list, as they frequently send out updates on discounted cruises. As far as value is concerned, a lot of the value when it comes to cruising is when you assess the cost effectiveness of all inclusiveness. I’m a big eater, I love to graze throughout the day. Food always really makes an experience for me, so knowing i have the option to eat all day is important to me. The food selections are marvelous, dinner was theatrical and fun. Pro Tip– don’t sleep on the chocolate molten cake for dessert.
Along the poolside, you’ll find two fabulous “quick service” style options. The tacos I ate abroad the Carnival Paradise should win some sort of taco award.
Guy’s burger place was fabulous too, so fabulous in fact I had two within my first 24 hours on board.
Just look at all that hot sauce, at my fingertips, to sample and enjoy for five straight days..
And since I know hygiene is important, I wanted to share a picture of one of the MANY stations on board to grab hand sanitizer. There’s also many places for an old fashioned hand washing
Okay, but where can you catch a buzz// should you buy the drink package?
So, the motto of the Carnival is Choose Fun. I felt to really give ya’ll an honest opinion on your drink options and making the most of the experience it was crucial I experiment and sample as many libations as I could. As soon as we made it on board, I took advantage of the rum drink strategically prepared and placed for purchase at the deck.
I’m not a tequilla fan, but I did snap a photo for you guys to see there is a tequila bar right across from the rum bar.
Rum is absolutely my drink of choice. The fact that I was able to secure a burger with unlimited pickles, and a fruity rum drink within the first minutes on board, pretty much confirmed for me that I would have a good trip.
Some drinks I really loved on board: “A kiss on the lips” and anything they offered that ended in ‘lada. Take advantage of being able to carry on one bottle of wine. My friend suggested bringing champagne and requesting orange juice for mimosas in the morning. I ended up grabbing some of my favorite bellini from Trader Joe’s, and enjoyed it on my verandah with a book. If you plan to drink quite a bit, I think the drink package is truthfully a great value. I will purchase it for future cruises as well. I also wanted to tell you that you can get an adorable disco ball cup with a drink in it for 15 bucks at the Rex. It’s great for photos, but also worked really well the next day when I just wanted to fill it with water. (and have a straw, not made from sugar or chocolate.) Side bar– pack a metal straw.
I was very impressed with how quickly our rooms became available, and even more so impressed with the size of the stateroom. I enjoyed a king sized bed, a verandah, and if you head to my Instagram story highlights– I actually give a tour of the room.
In the spirit of full transparency, I will say I got a little seasick the first night. It passed quickly, but the water was rougher than I’d experienced in previous cruisin’ I was thankful for the next day to coast along, primarily laying by the pool after our conference wrapped for the day. I can’t think of many things I’d describe as more restful than being by a pool in the middle of the ocean.
We had the pleasure of being on a spring break cruise with fun loving college kids, and I was so here for it. The way grandmas affectionately tell us, we will miss this days, that’s how I felt. I wouldn’t wish away this time in my life for anything, but it was so joyous to be reminded of more carefree days. Less mortgage, more bikinis and dancing. There are so many incredible activities on board, and the college kids graciously let me interview them and hear from their perspective what they’d suggest you do if you’re heading out for Spring Break on a Carnival cruise. The general consensus was to put away from your phone, live presently, and to splurge on the drink package.
For families– the water park area is fabulous and I didn’t note it being crowded once. I’m sure this ebbs and flows with certain times of the year, but I’d definitely take my kids on a Carnival cruise.
Can I just tell ya’ll that I laughed so hard on this slide? The first time I did it, it was amazing and so fast. The second time, I apparently didn’t get things going quickly enough, and I literally crept down this slide at snail pace. So slowly I cannot put into words, by the time I finally got out of the slide I was laughing so hard that I had actual tears in my eyes. I’m not sorry if that story isn’t as funny if you weren’t there, because it was truly so hilarious to me.
The days at sea go by quicker than you’d expect, there are so many fun ways to spend time from shows to the Hasbro game show (which is a can’t miss evening event, btw.)
A pool, a water park, giant chess, corn hole, food, booze, comedy shows, and then dancing, days in motion slip by quickly.
It felt good to just embrace it, let my hair down and relax a little bit. I’ve always loved dancing, so hitting the dance floor with a group of dear friends going from the window to the wall brought out a more carefree version of me. (or maybe it was the contents of said disco ball?)
Let’s talk about the ports of call:
Our first stop was Cozumel, Mexico.
I had never been, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. When I’ve cruised in the past, I’ve found it didn’t make a ton of sense to book an excursion. However, this is one place I’d absolutely recommend an excursion. It is a beautiful little city, but very tourist driven. Given a do over, I would have joined my friends who bought a day pass to Paradise Island.
There is a free area with sand, overlooking the water that we spent maybe two hours at. We got back on the ship as lunch approached, and spent the rest of the day at the pool. A lot of frequent cruisers suggest just staying on the ship. I have grown to love this idea, because less people equal shorter lines. But seriously, how beautiful is the sun rising up over Cozumel? I got early every morning and drank a fancy coffee from the on board coffee shop (located on deck 9 of the paradise, that was a favorite part of the trip for me.)
That night we ate contentedly and went to the comedy show. I didn’t plan better, or I would have loved to watch some of the more broadway style shows. Next time, I will spend some time checking out the schedule the first day and making a little schedule for myself. After that, we went dancing and again dropped it like it was hot (my only cardio all week.)
The next day was our day in Grand Cayman, I was thankful that we booked an excursion to the beach. By this time, I was little worn out and really eager to read my book and splash in the Gulf of Mexico. I didn’t think it was the easiest to get from the boat to the beach, but when we got there we learned things were a little off schedule as we had to swap our port of call days. It was a decision made by Carnival with our safety and comfort in mind, so I’m not complaining. Quite frankly, once I was on the beach and full of fried plaintains, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy. (Please see photographic proof of my joy below.)
This is the kind of ocean that has the most calming effect on me, the clear blue water that spans beyond what we can even imagine and the white sand, virtually transparent reminding me that the best thing in lives are usually free.
I couldn’t wait to snap this photo and throw my head band off and dive head first into this remarkably tepid water.
That night was spent leisurely exploring the ship, recognizing how fleeting time is when you’re truly resting and having fun with people you adore.
Five days on the paradise and in actual paradise went by quickly, and if you’re discerning whether or not you should hop on the next cruise out of Tampa. I highly encourage it. Carve out time whether its on land or at sea, to live a little. To make like Carnival, and choose fun. To fully embrace your inner spring breaker, dive head first into the ocean, race down the water slide, order a second drink with dinner. Step outside your comfort zone, whether that means as a family, a couple, or a mom navigating a difficult season in life. I couldn’t be more thrilled I did, I’ve felt a wash of joy creeping into my life since we got back. A reminder to make every day a chance to choose fun.