I’m a little late to post this but last month we visited and stayed two nights at the Great Wolf Lodge in Charlotte/Concord, NC! This is our second time visiting and we still found it just as fun, if not even more fun than the first time!Read more
A few weeks ago, we took our first vacation of 2020 to Orange Lake Resort-Holiday Inn Club Vacations in Orlando!! Holiday Inn Club Vacations reached out and invited us to their Orange Lake Resort. Honestly, I was a little hesitant at first (Covid) but then I did significant research on how they were handling it and was very impressed. Read more
We had about 15 trips planned for the spring and summer of 2020. Read more
A big reason we booked our most recent cruise was because of one of the ports it visited…Aruba has been on our bucket list for a while! We had the best day there at De Palm Island!
After a lot of research prior to the cruise, I decided I wanted a relaxing day for Judd and I! The kids stayed at Camp Ocean and we headed to De Palm Island.
De Palm Island is Aruba’s only an all-inclusive area, it is BEAUTIFUL! We took a shuttle to a dock and then took a short boat ride to De Palm Island. Whether you want to relax or want a day of adventure, it has everything! Included in your day is unlimited food and drinks, snorkeling (more to come on this), kids water park, body drop slides (this was closed for maintenance while we visited), banana boats, area to view flamingos, salsa lessons, and other daily activities.
Since we don’t get many breaks from our kids, we decided to splurge and get a private Beach Cabana. This includes your own cabana on a reserved cabana beach that has several chairs, a refrigerator with a bottle of Prosecco, table and chairs, a shower, towels and concierge service. This area was really quiet and peaceful!
They also have an area filled with flamingos! I’ve never seen a flamingo on a beach so we thought that was really unique!
I mentioned above that they have a snorkeling area, this was some of the best snorkeling we have ever seen!! We were so impressed by this! The snorkeling area is hard to even explain, this video does a great job! Here are several pictures we took with our underwater camera.
We just got back from my favorite vacation that the 4 of us have ever taken! We did an almost 2-week cruise through South America and the Caribbean on the Carnival Sunshine! I’m going to cover a lot on this post: what a normal at sea day looks like for us, food and entertainment on the ship, Carnival’s Camp Ocean, and 3 of the 6 ports we visited. I already shared about one of our ports, Bonaire here Blissful and Breathtaking Bonaire. I will share about another port in the future too as well as a post about my cruise tips/hacks.
We boarded the ship and immediately started unpacking and decorated our door. I’ve always loved how people decorate their stateroom doors. This cruise I decided to join in on the fun and I also thought it would be easier for the kids to find our door…it was. I bought these from StudioSeabyMe on Etsy and LOVE them! The owner is so sweet! We received many compliments. 🙂 I kept the decorations to use on future cruises too!
What a Normal Day at Sea Looks Like for Us
I have to admit before we had kids and had a lot more energy, days at sea weren’t always my favorite. However, in time I’ve learned how to appreciate these days! They make you relax because you can’t leave the ship. Now, I LOVE LOVE LOVE days at sea! A normal day at sea for us with the kids consists of room service for breakfast then we do an activity in the Sports Square like miniature golf or swimming in WaterWorks prior to Camp Ocean opening.
We drop the kiddos off at Camp Ocean (more to come on that) which they just adore!
Judd and I go to the pool or Serenity Retreat (3 story pool deck that’s adults only) to relax until lunch time!
One day we did the ropes course which was really fun!
We pick up the kiddos and eat lunch.
The kiddos and one of us (usually Judd, thanks babe) goes back to the room for a nap while I go back to hang out in the sun.
Once the kiddos are up, it’s time to get ready for the evening! About half the time we eat dinner together but honestly, the kids would rather eat with their friends at Camp Carnival, so Judd and I go to dinner and enjoy the evening entertainment on the ship (more to come on this too). Then it’s time for bed!
I really can’t write enough about Camp Ocean; we are so impressed! I did a LOT of research on Camp Ocean prior to booking this cruise because I am definitely over protective of my kids. I was impressed by everything: the activities, the set-up, the staff which has to be highly trained and goes through extensive background checks, and their policies.
It is filled with the sweetest staff that loved our kids! Everything was VERY clean, in fact they close down for a little bit on most days just to clean. We felt so safe leaving Camden and Ella there. They also give parents a phone and they will call with updates or you can even call! I didn’t take a ton of pictures because there were other kids in the area and I didn’t get their parents’ permission to post pictures. 🙂
They provide so much entertainment. My kids had way more fun with them compared to us, haha! They had dance parties, they did tons of crafts, they played games, watched movies, and had themed parties!
Look at all these crafts they made! This isn’t even all of them!
If you’re like me and research everything. I found this information very helpful: Camp Ocean, Youth Program, Penguins (group my kiddos were in), Night Owls (we didn’t use this but I heard great things), and meals (below is Camden and Ella eating with their friends and the Camp Ocean Staff).
We even got to go on two excursions by ourselves, they watched our kiddos!
I am a foodie! One of my favorite things about cruising is the food. Carnival Sunshine really outdid themselves and should be really proud!
I’ll be honest, we’re not huge breakfast people so we get room service every morning. We love this because we can start the morning off just the four of us in our pajamas!
However, on the last at sea day, we went to the Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast and had a great time! It’s only $5 a person so to do this, so worth it!
Camden and Ella wore their Thing 1 and Thing 2 costumes from Halloween.
The entire dining room was decorated for the event and it was ADORABLE!
The menu was super cute and the food was really tasty and was designed to go with the theme! We were really impressed! How cute are these dishes?
The characters even came out for a visit!
For lunch, we either hit the Lido Marketplace (main buffet), Guy’s Burger Joint (my favorite), or Blue Iguana Cantina for tacos! They also have a create your own stir fry and pasta by the Havana Bar, we did that a few times!
I wish I had gotten a picture but Carnival has really stepped up on the desserts especially at lunch! They had an amazing cake section every day where a server would cut pieces for you, it was some of the best cake I’ve ever had!
Ella ate her weight in bread on this cruise. 😉 She kept telling us how good the bread was, haha!
I was so impressed by the dinner options on Carnival Sunshine! You can eat the buffet (we never do for dinner), the main dining room, or pay a little extra and eat at Cucina del Capitano (Italian), JiJi Asian Kitchen, or Fahrenheit 555 (steakhouse). This is the first time we did anything other than the main dining room for dinner and we had a great experience!
In the main dining room, I usually get a Caesar salad, an appetizer, one of the main dishes, and then a dessert (LOVE the Melting Cake) and a cheese plate (you can also request to take this back to your room for a late snack)! Everything is always delicious!
Fahrenheit 555 is out of this world delicious! I’m pretty sure I could eat there every night, haha!
Cucina del Capitano made us feel like we were back in Italy! Everything was fresh and homemade! We loved this one too!
JiJi Asian Kitchen was Judd’s favorite! It was tasty and just really fun to try different dishes!
Behind the Scenes
I was invited to a Chef’s Tasting and a behind the scenes tour while I was there! The food was amazing and the information was very interesting! I learned so much about how the food is prepared, how everything is handled, and how the menu is selected. I was shocked by how much food these cruise ships hold and how much food is made every day! This cruise spent over $400,000 in food alone!
Another reason why I love Carnival so much is I love the entertainment they provide especially in the evenings! On a normal day, there are 4 different times to see a comedian at The Punchliner Comedy Club, there is always a movie playing that you watch under the stars with popcorn and blankets, they usually have one big show a night. On our cruise we were so lucky to see a hypnotist, the Love and Marriage Show, a mentalist, and a Christmas show (my kids were even in it!). We had an absolute blast!!
Watching movies under the stars with popcorn is my favorite!
Judd was pulled up on stage to be hypnotized.
Camden and Ella loved all the music on the ship and were constantly dancing!
My kiddos participated in the Dr. Seuss Parade and story time and many other Seuss at Sea activities!
This is from the Christmas show! Ella stole the show and sat on the Cruise Director Mikey’s lap for most of the show.
They finished the show by seeing Santa!
We sent letters to Santa one afternoon.
The ship also has an amazing spa and gym (if you’re crazy and like to work out on vacation ;-))
With this being a journey cruise (a longer cruise), we really got to know the staff. I have SOO much respect for the Carnival Sunshine crew. They were nice, hard working, and all around good people! I have to especially thank Camp Ocean (Claudia, Emma, Rebecca, Hazel, Mary Joy, Hanna, Marko, Dyna, Cassia, Joanna, Billy Jean, Maria, and Alejanadra) for taking such good care of my kiddos. My kiddos had the time of their life thanks to you! A huge thanks to our room steward, Budiarta and his sweet assistant! Dragana, our floor supervisor! They made sure we had everything we needed! The wait staff was incredible! A BIG thanks to our favorite server Ivan from Ukraine! He always told us the best dishes and made sure we got out in time for our evening entertainment. I should have taken more pictures of the staff but I completely forgot!
This is Miss Claudia and Miss Hazel! We adored both of them!!
The first port that we stopped at is one of my favorites and one that we’ve been to several times, St. Thomas. You can find out about our first time going there here. This time we decided to go to Magens Bay which is rated one of the prettiest beaches in the world, year after year! I was told Oprah has a house here too! A taxi from the cruise port was $8 per person and then you pay $5 per person admission to the beach (kids are free). We rented 2 chairs and umbrellas from the Magens Bay Beach Bar and had a great experience! The staff was so friendly and they set up our umbrella and chairs for us!
It was a very relaxing day!
Turks and Caicos
Judd and I booked an excursion just the two of us to go snorkeling on this day! It was BEAUTIFUL! The water was so clear and there were beautiful fish and colorful coral everywhere.
We snorkeled at two different sites and then a boat dropped us off at the beach where we ate lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon.
Our final port was Princess Cays. This was our first time here and it was great! This is a private island that is run by the cruise line! We rented a cabana and a float, and spent the day relaxing, eating and playing on the beach with the kids!
You can read about our time in Bonaire here! I will be writing about Aruba after Christmas.
I know I am forgetting a million things about this cruise! If I think of more, I will come back and add to this! Overall, we had the best family vacation and it was a great way to end 2019. Thanks for an amazing vacation, Carnival! If interested, you can find more about our ship, Carnival Sunshine here. If you’re considering a cruise with your kids, do it! I’m telling you, we all had so much fun together, the kids had an amazing time at Camp Ocean, and Judd and I had time just the two of us! So far, we’ve taken at least one cruise a year since we’ve gotten married and we don’t plan to stop! We will continue cruising through life one port at a time. 😉
We have been cruising through South America and the Caribbean on the Carnival Sunshine! It’s been an amazing trip! I have many things to share…pictures and stories but I wanted to first share about one of the first ports we visited…Bonaire! We’ve never been here and honestly hadn’t heard much about it but we were really anxious to check it out. I worked with Tourism Bonaire and had the best experience! Bonaire wasn’t only one of my favorite ports from this trip, it was one of my favorite ports ever!
When we first got off the ship, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the area was! Usually when you get off cruise ports, the surrounding area isn’t always the best, it’s usually industrial or filled with souvenir shacks. This one was beautiful with restaurants and well-kept stores. It also felt so safe and it turns out, it’s one of the safest islands in the Caribbean! Its considered a special municipality within the Netherlands.
After walking through some of the shopping district, we arrived to the Tourism Bonaire office and met the friendly staff. Then it was time for our tour.
We had an amazing tour guide, Rolando who was informative and entertaining! As he drove us around, we saw so many beautiful beaches with scuba divers getting ready to dive! I had no idea that Bonaire was voted one of the top places to dive in the world year after year! When we visit next time, this is a must for us! I spoke with a few divers while we were there and one said, “Imagine paradise underwater, that’s what you have here!”
Next, we noticed these huge pyramids and “pink bodies of water”. Turns out these are salt pyramids. Bonaire has a thriving salt industry. Cargill Corporation is responsible for the salt production here. It was actually really beautiful to see!
These are slave huts by the salt ponds that are still standing from the 1850s.
As we were driving, all of the sudden Ella yelled, “FAMINGOS!”. Sure enough, we looked out the window and there were hundreds and hundreds of flamingos!
It was breathtaking. This is the island’s signature bird. The area is protected so you can’t get close to them but you can see them on the drive, planes also aren’t allowed to fly over the flamingo reserve!
Then it was time for one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen, Sorobon Beach! There is a public beach here and a resort, Sorobon Beach Resort. We rented a cabana for the afternoon at the resort, it was paradise!
Look at this water! I have to admit, this is the prettiest water I have ever seen!! It just didn’t even look real, it was that beautiful!
We all took a nap (that’s Ella under the towels, haha), played in the water, watched the wind surfers, built sand castles, and relaxed for a few hours!
That’s Judd and Camden wayyyy out there! This beach was so cool because you could walk really far our and the water was still till our waist! Not to mention it felt like bath water and was crystal clear!
Rolando picked us up and took us to lunch at Karel’s Beach Bar! We were treated to a delicious lunch! I had a chicken sandwich that was SO good, Judd had a burger, and the kiddos had chicken nuggets and fries. We ate this while looking at beautiful water views and the cruise ships! I highly recommend this place!
If you’re looking for a place to relax with beautiful water and beaches, a place to scuba dive, or just a place to escape I highly recommend Bonaire! It is postcard perfect! If you’re planning a trip, be sure to use Tourism Bonaire to help plan!
A HUGE thanks to Tourism Bonaire and Karel’s Beach Bar for hosting us! We had such an amazing day!