Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Vacation: Cruising with the littlest of mates!

It should come as no surprise that life around the Ghouse has been cray-cray! Hard to imagine that this time last year I embarked on a journey with just my momma and my awesome sister to have what would turn our to be a life changing cruise adventure...
Life changing?  Well I learned that 18 months is possibly the worst time to vacation with out your husband!  I will say that my mom and my sister totally rocked it but I quickly had a new appreciation for my husband. I never realized how much he actually paid attention and anticipated our needs until I was sailing away for 8 days WITHOUT HIM! Oh and my sister met a really awesome guy that swept her off her feet and happily uprooted her to his home town (where I am pretty confident that they will live happily ever after)!
Ok so enough about that...let's talk cruising with your little first mates!
This was the second time cruising with my boys. We went when they were 9 months and then again when they were 18 months. Both times I did a ton of research and called the cruise line more than I want to admit. So to help other parents avoid being a freak like me, I am passing on some great information.
1. Choose your cruise line wisely! 
We sailed #Carnival both times. Why? I personally like how laid back they are and the atmosphere that they promote. I also love their customer service. I booked with my amazing travel agent who always made sure to note that we had babies and that crying was a possibility. (Shout out to Jill B. at the Cicero AAA)
2. Passports and Travel Documents.
Yup they will need passports! Little known fact...your kids can be sleeping in their passport photos - use that nap time to get the mountain of paperwork done and a super cute snapshot that is good for 5 years! Travelling without your spouse or both parents of the child(ren)? Your going to need a note. For my solo mission I typed up a letter and photo copied his ID and them sent him to get it notorized. Trust me you will need it!
3. Packing.
Obviously you know clothes and normal things that you would pack on any vacation. Somethings you might not think of...your on a cruise,  ya can't just stop at Tarjay for the emergency needs. PLAN AHEAD! I always bring a kit for every possible symptom. Baby Tylenol,  baby Motrin, teething tablets, bandaids, thermometer, nasal spray, Benadryl...remember at ages 9 months and 18 months there are some things that your kids haven't been exposed to. (See next tip)
4. Plan for exposure.
I of course got my pediatrician involved and talked about possible things that could happen....why? Because I was about to lock my allergy prone children in a fantastically amazing vessels for the next week and I wasn't about to be in sick bay or airlifted ($$$) because of a reaction.  My boy's had a lot of allergies and both had some major reactions in the past. Regardless of this, a family vacation in the middle of the ocean is not the time to find out that your little one has an airborne allergy to shellfish. I knew my boys would be touching surfaces that others has touched so, I did a controlled skin test on them at home. Talk to your doctor if you think you will be in the same boat ;-)
P.s. If ya think it's crazy, I did find out that my son was allergic to zinc so we had to do almost a month of sunscreen testing to find one that didn't break out from (shout out to #aveeno!)
5. Food and drinks.
If you have a child(ren) without food allergies party on, the ship should have plenty of options for you. I however did bring on food and water for my littles because for the most part you need to order pureed and steamed items ahead of time. Dinner is the exception, on our cruise, our waiters were super accommodating! They let me know the menu the night before and I could pre order what my boys would eat. Plus my boys love shrimp and they would have a shrimp cocktail heading our way just as we sat down each night.  I can't say enough about how accommodating #Carnival was with our dietary demands. Packing wise you can bring any amount of food you want with you. You can ask that the mini fridge be cleared and you can store what you need in there. The first time we went with the "bring everything for every meal" so off I went to invest in a zombie apocalypse amount of baby food. After spending a small fortune I quickly learned that my good eaters turned picky if it wasn't homemade baby food! Needless to say they survived and for the most part gulped it down without hesitation at mealtime. We had amazing servers that had the kitchen steam and puree my boys favorite veggies and had then ready to go at dinner time - Gtwins definitely approved!  As for formula and bottles we smuggled cases onto the ship! Just kidding, we were able to bring up to 12 bottles of water per person. Tip: call ahead. I would prepare lists as I thought of things to ask. Carnival was great and their customer service was just amazing with even my most crazy questions!
6. Babysitting - on our first cruise we didn't use babysitting. Why? Because I was still in the "how selfish to be on a cruise and enjoying myself,  I am a parent now" stage. The second cruise was "this momma hasn't put make-up on in months, I'm slapping on some heels and going out with my sister! "...translation: I used the sitter service one time to go to the Comedy show.
Here's how the Night Owls worked for us. After Camp Carnival closes they reopen for the babysitting service. I took the boys up during open play and filled out all the paperwork then (allergies, meal preferences,  juice or water only...totally won me over). When we arrived for our "night out" everything was ready to go. I was super impressed when one of the staff came up to me and said "we read the notes and it looks like J is teething and you are using teething tablets, Tylenol and chew toys to soothe - is that still correct?" I was shocked!  I informed her that he was super cranky and that he had just been given Tylenol but to go ahead with the teething tablets and toy if needed. They got the boys all settled in and handed me a cell phone to contact me if needed and I made it very clear not to hesitate and to call me for anything! (#momguilt)  We made it 3 hours before the phone rang and I was very impressed! Unfortunately J would not settle. So of course at a dead run I rushed up to find he just wanted mommy. All the other kids were calmly watching a movie and there were two babysitting sweetly trying to comfort my J. O of course was hanging with a new buddy in a pack-n- play and was then sad to leave.
In summary it was a really great experience for us! I loved the open play times and the snipit of care that we used was excellent!

7. Know the ship layout prior to going - this is crucial for cruising with little ones! Most of you are thinking because  of emergencies...truth -- BUT I am actually talking about the Momergancies! Ya know, when your kid is completely over stimulated and needs a place to just chill or they are wide awake at 11pm and need a place to just release energy or when you are just over being a complete helicopter mom and you just want to let them roam without having to worry if they are disturbing others or about to knock over a table of food...#momergancies! So scope your ship out prior! Key places that are not used during the day are lounges, usually ones that are not on main decks. Also all ships have a conference room that is only used probably 30% of the time - those are the best for crawlers and waddlers because they have a slight step that can be great for the ninja warrior in training.

9. All aboard! By now you are asking how the heck did we get everything on the ship!'s how!
- 3 large utility totes - 1 for food and snacks, 1 for water and formula and1 for toys
- 1 stroller each time (used for carrying all the totes on board and the everyday need to transport your mates!
- 2 harness carries  (used front Bjorns the first time and Kelty backpacks the second time) -- best way to do so for security reasons. Also the Kelty's were great to take them off ans set right next to the table as soon as you get on the ship to immediately serve lunch.
- 2 suit cases - these are checked and brought  to your room - but make sure your diaper bag is with you.
- 1 diaper bag - mine had 6 diapers, wipes, 2 fresh cups of water, snacks and toys.
*** you don't immediately go to your room ans when you do get there you are asked to return  to the deck for a safety drill. You will be expected to hold your kids unless you find the handicap lounge. The first time we lucked out and found it right away. The second time...not so much....we had screaming kids and cheerios everywhere! I would definitely  call line ahead to know where lounge is located if possible!
Welp....I think this is enough to get you off to a good start for your cruising journey! We put two great cruise vacations in the books before the #Gtwins were even 2 years old! I am hoping to make that 3 very soon!
If I can do it, so can you! If you have questions or want more information? Comment below or shoot me an email!

Bon Voyage and Happy Sailing!

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