You’re taking your baby with you? Everyone was in disbelief that we would embark on a cruise with our 21 month old. Of course, we are taking her with us she is why we decided to go on a cruise rather than a flight to Dubai.
Our baby girl may only be just over 1 year old, but our desire is to travel and to have her see the world so had they stamped our passports in Mexico she would already have two stamps in her passport. Sure, going on vacation with a kid is not as easy as it was when it was just hubby and I or when I was single, but that doesn’t make it bad. Traveling with kiddos is challenging because it means you have to prepare, you have to take into consideration naps, toys, diaper changes and car seats and so much more. However, when you explore the world with kids it forces you to slow down, to see things you would have missed and encourages you to dig deeper into the culture.
We chose to travel on the Carnival Imagination, it disembarked from Long Beach which gave us two options; quick but costly flight from San Jose to LAX or long drive down the coast with as many diaper change stops as needed and just a tank of gas. The drive down highway 101 sounded like the better option. I meant we could save money, have a relaxing beautiful drive and not need to rent a car or get shuttles taken care of. We decided that leaving first thing in the morning was the wisest choice as it would allow our daughter the opportunity to sleep for the major part of the trip. Our plan worked! Kiley slept from home till our stop in Carpentaria, leaving us only an hour and 20 min. So, we got out did a diaper change walked around a bit and she was back to sleep for most of that last leg of the drive!
Embarkation I knew would be a struggle, but we packed light and Kiley carried her own little ladybug backpack that she got on our trip to Bolivia a year ago. The lines were long, but we shuffled along and Kiley blew kisses and flirted with those in line making everyone’s journey just a little sweeter.
With the hard part of the trip over we were ready to relax and enjoy our vacation. I had made sure to do my part ahead of time to make our trip less hectic. I had Carnival supply our room with a crib and we chose a room that had a window so we wouldn’t feel trapped. I also asked for a room mid ship away from the elevators so that we would get the least amount of rocking (hoping to avoid seasickness) and noise from people returning to their rooms late at night. My planning paid off, our room was great. Kiley sleeping in the crib never happened, but hey, kids are kids.
Our time aboard ship mostly included relaxing by the pool, and eating more than anyone should. We knew going into it that Kiley was too little for their kids programs so we were not thrown off by the fact that we had our little one in tow. We also, decided that the options for excursions in Catalina and in Mexico were better left till the last moment, as there is no telling how your kid will be the day of.
Our first stop was Catalina and we took our time to have a good breakfast before catching a boat ashore. This was a good choice, but it meant by the time we got off the boat the golf carts at the closest shop were already booked, with a line down the street. If you have never been to Catalina, it is gorgeous, but there really is very little to see or do. I knew this ahead of time because of a little thing I like to call the Internet. So, I also knew that the best way to spend our time was on a golf cart and that they would provide a car seat for Kiley. So we wandered down to the last golf cart rental place and hopped on board and away we went. Our drive around the little island offered up some stunning views and photo ops and it was also the perfect way for Kiley to take her morning nap! Score!
After a little souvenir shopping, we decided we would prefer an afternoon at the pool, so we headed back to the Imagination. Back on board we had lunch at the buffet and then were disappointed to find that the pool was closed. I never got a good answer as to why the pool was closed for the majority of our trip, but we just went with the flow and relaxed in the sun. Kiley decided that it was time for an afternoon nap anyhow, and that a nap lounging on top of mom was the best kind.
Carnival does offer a program called Night Owls where parents with little ones can drop them off from 10pm-1am for a group babysitting if you will. We decided to give that a go so we could dance a little. Kiley went in no problem, but before we even had a chance to dance, the staff called to let us know she was very upset. By the time we got there she had puked all over one of them. They were gracious and kind, and once we got her cleaned up she went to bed happy as a clam. (She throws up when she cries such fun) Oh well, so much for dancing the night away.
The next morning we woke up in Mexico. We made our way to the dining room before leaving the ship, because why leave hungry, plus the dining staff on the ship were the best! They absolutely adored Kiley and took such great care of us at every meal. Once we set foot in Mexico it was time to figure out how to spend our day exploring Ensenada.
I had done my due diligence to know our options as they were offered on Carnival and ashore. So, we opted to ignore Carnival excursions and head out on our own. Found a bus, which took us into town and then once on that bus discovered that they offered tours exactly where we would like to go and at less than half the cost of the same tour offered by Carnival. So, we switched to the second us and got a tour out to see La Bufadora, which we were told is the second largest blow hole in the world, and a market where we could get some great fish tacos and other good food as well as a good place to barter for local souvenirs.
I would love to tell you this was an amazing tour, I can tell you that our guide was super friendly and that he would make a great realtor as he spent most the time on the bus telling us the cost of buying property and why we should own a home in Ensenada. Kiley got a good nap on her Papa’s lap and we gazed out the windows as we passed; Costco, Home Depot, and McDonalds. Not really what we had in mind, though not surprising. Once at our destination we made our way down the street sampling many versions of pina coladas and street food. We finally arrived at La Bufadora, and we waited expectantly to watch the ocean shoot up into the air. We waited, and waited and then gave up and went to grab some lunch.
We ate up stairs at a little place with a great view of the Pacific Ocean and that is about all it had going for it. Our tour guide had promised they had great ceviche which I had been craving, but his idea of great and my idea of great are not, as it turns out the same. After our quick lunch complete with pineapples filled with pina coladas (yes we gave in) we went shopping.
Our shopping time was short because the bus was scheduled to leave and I wanted to try the “best handmade tortillas” before jumping on the bus back to town. This time the guide was right; the fish and steak tacos in the handmade tortillas were delicious. Kiley napped on me the whole way back to the bus station.
Once back in town we wandered downtown and decided there was not really much to see and headed back. We had drink and some chips as we waited for our bus back to the ship. Ensenada was exactly what we were expecting so we were not disappointed, but had we not done our Google search pre-vacation I expect we would have been sorely disappointed.
Our last day was a day at sea and the pool was finally open, it was also my husband’s birthday and there was a soccer match happening somewhere in the world. So, I let him enjoy the morning listening to the game sitting poolside and I took care of Kiley and her nap time. Unfortunately there was some sort of maintenance happening outside our room resulting in loud banging. So, Kiley and I took a long walk around the ship and ordered her Papa a birthday cake to be delivered later that night. Finally, we headed back with the hopes that the banging had subsided. It had not, I called guest services and they said they would give me a credit for the inconvenience, the banging continued but by this time Kiley was too tired to care and she crashed. Her nap time gave me a chance to catch up on Facebook and watch Friends. Once she woke we headed up to find Freddy at the pool and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
When dinner rolled around we were once again treated warmly by the wait staff and enjoyed their song and dance routine. At the end of the meal they sang Happy Birthday to Freddy and presented him with a little cake. We were so full from dinner that we left the other cake Kiley and I had ordered until morning. (yep cake in the morning, it’s vacation)
While this was not the best vacation ever, it was what we had expected. It was all inclusive, it was economical and it was fun. Cruises with a kiddo are a nice way to go, there is something for everyone and you are always close to your room for a quick nap, diaper change (ah be forewarned there are no diaper changing tables in the restrooms) or just to escape if need be. Everyday offered something new to do and it could all be done at our pace. Would we do it again? No, probably not because we still have the rest of the world to explore!