It seems fitting that hours after dropping off the kids at school for their first day that I should sit at my desk (missing them a bit, I have to admit) and write up the second part of our vacation.
The morning after our day with the Mouse and the Magic we lazed about before packing up to head for the cruise ship terminal an hour away.
As I’ve mentioned before, going on a cruise was a very last minute decision on my part. It was that or heading to a rental on a lake. Even as we headed to Long Beach I still wasn’t 100% sure that I’d made the right choice. I did worry a bit that the kids might be sea sick and that we’d bitterly regret being on the open seas.
Lucky for me, my kids have stomachs of steel like their mama!
We started having fun even before we got on board. Excitement was high!
We got on board on the early side, giving us plenty of time to explore the ship and grab some lunch poolside. It didn’t take long for the kids to grasp just how much fun was awaiting them.
Like… water slides?
We had booked an inside state room, just big enough for the four of us and our stuff, but Carnival graciously upgraded us to a balcony suite which we took no time at all to get used to*. (It wasn’t hard… at all.)
Not as fun as bunk beds, but quite cozy nonetheless.
As soon as the kids were settled in for the night, I stepped out onto the balcony to put my new camera through its paces. I dearly loved my Nikon D40… but it was no match for the dark. The D3200 allowed me to play, play, and then play some more. Low light? Who cares!
Bright light? Doesn’t stop the camera either. Also, waking up to this every morning? I could live with that!
We woke up the next morning at our first port of call – Catalina Island, which I’d never been to, but had heard much about. We took our sweet time having breakfast on board and discussing our day on the island. As we talked, Little L grew more and more agitated. I brushed it off, until I realized that she was anxious about taking the small boats that were ferrying people from the big ship to shore.
My gut reaction was to tell her to suck it up and to force her to come with us. And then I realized I didn’t have to. Instead, I asked her if she wanted to spend the day at Camp Carnival.
She was quick to agree and instantly her grumps vanished. M, on the other hand, was skeptical, worrying about the family component of our family vacation vanishing into thin air. I prevailed. The thought of not having to jolly a cranky 7-year-old along all day sounded perfectly amazing.
See? Smiles all around!
Catalina Island was utterly adorable. I could have spent a whole vacation right there, walking around the beachy downtown, having coffee in quaint coffee shops, taking in all the sights.
After a bit of walking around, M and C decided they really wanted to go kayaking. I got them settled in their little boat and, with a bit of a skip in my step, headed out for an hour long walk with my camera.
Who says family vacation means you all have to be together ALL the time?
Before we knew it, it was time to get back on board. I joined all the other people busy snapping shots of our boat.
Our second night on board was just as fun as the first, with some added treats. Mmm chocolate and strawberries…
And new friends!
On our second morning I woke up as we were slowly making our way into Ensenada. I snuck out onto the balcony, making sure not to rouse my slumbering family, and put my camera to work again.
I wanted to love Ensenada. I really did. But it was a little… sad… unfinished… grimy.
We headed off the boat in the hopes of finding a cute beach town to visit and instead found ourselves in what could have been, in a more prosperous place, an industrial area. Instead of walking around as we’d planned to do, we hopped on a tour buss headed to the big local attraction, La Boufadora, a big ol’ blowhole, where all the tourists gather to watch water shoot up into the sky before heading to the open air market to haggle over keepsakes.
I’m glad we went. I’m glad the kids got to see a bit of Mexico – though I’ll definitely be taking them back to see more of it as I think it would be a shame to have Ensenada be their only take on the whole country. But I’m also glad we had a whole day at sea after so that we could end our trip on a more positive note.
The kids ran off as early as possible to hang out with their friends at camp, leaving M and I to relax and laze the day away. Lucky us, we were also treated to a really cool behind the scenes tour of the ship. We saw all the kitchens and some of the staff areas.
Whenever I cruise I’m always mesmerized by the thought of the lives of the staff happening under the feet of all the vacationers. Seeing them in action only increased my awe.
All in all, it was a fantabulous vacation. We all came home, happy, rested, and excitedly planning next summer’s trip.
Want to know why you should consider a Carnival Cruise for your next family trip? Stay tuned. I have a top 10 reasons why coming up soon.
*Please note: This trip was planned for and purchased by us, I was not compensated for this trip. The Carnival team went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and treated us like royalty the whole time we were on board because I had, prior to our departure, informed the PR team that we’d be sailing the Carnival Inspiration. That said, it has to be noted that the customer service team on the ship, as well as all the staff we encountered, are incredibly dedicated to their jobs and truly bend over backwards to make everyone on board have a fantastic time, whether or not they’re social media VIPs.