Planning Tips For Your First Family Cruise – Guest post ft Olivia W Jones

Planning a first family cruise can often be both nerve wracking and thrilling. From booking to disembarking, there are many aspects to keep in mind, since any of them could make or break the whole vacation. On a brighter note, a wide array of activities, amenities and food can potentially satisfy anyone, no matter whether it is a newborn baby or a seasoned grandpa. Those who want to stay on top of these aspects quickly find out that cruises are the ultimate family vacations. Here is how to take the stress and frustration out of the process and navigate the minefield of decisions.family cruise blog

Across the seven seas

Some basic rules of travelling always apply, although many specifics are different. For instance, packing techniques help just like with any other vacation, but when cruising, it is also highly advisable to pack a tote bag with all the essentials you need ‒ namely because it takes a few hours for your luggage to be delivered to the cabins. Also, getting off a ship is not like checking out of a hotel. There is again a process of waiting involved. Speaking of which, cruise lengths vary from a couple of days to two weeks.

family cruise - Suitcase open on the floor with holiday essentials almost packed!
Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Decide how many days makes sense for you and your family, depending on your preferences and free time. Another thing to take into account is the selection of the arrival and departure ports. The basic dilemma comes down to either visiting just one destination or hitting many with one fair. Some of the most popular bucket list destinations are the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, South Africa, Northern Europe, North America, etc. In any event, pick a destination the whole family is on board with.

The bottom line

Next, it is time to look around for the best deal out there. Choosing the right cruise line is the cornerstone of a successful cruise. The lines differ in terms of quality of service, size of the ship, and offered amenities. It is not uncommon to stumble upon shabby offers that are complete duds. You want to steer away from shore excursions that are basically glorified bus rides. Also, keep your eyes open for discounts, special offers, and deal alerts from reputable agencies.

Family Cruise - ships in port

Do your homework and utilize websites like Onboard.com that allow you to research and book cruises as well as read reviews on them. For families, it is important to note that some cruise lines stand out from the rest because of what they offer to young kids. Carnival cruises, for example, have a great line-up of kid programs, activities, and features that’ll keep the little ones entertained and engaged.

Once the cruise is booked, you need to figure out the itinerary. As for the time on board, there should be a variety of possible activities, including pool, cinema, skydiving, roller skating, bumper cars, golf, etc. Ports offer excursions such as snorkeling, kayaking, city tours, shopping, and horseback riding. Some cruises are marketed and tailored to be all-inclusive. Even then, however, you cannot expect not to have extra expenditures on board, such as pay-extra eateries, gift shops, beverages, various activities, etc.

From stem to stern

Some people overlook the fact that the location and the type of the room on the ship do play an important role. Staterooms are a budget option for those who do not plan on spending much time inside. If you are willing to pay a bit more, though, you can opt for balcony rooms, suites, and deluxe packages. Cabins on the low decks are a nice solution for people who are prone to seasickness.

Family Cruise - Boy on balcony of cruise ship

The good news is that with the marvels of modern technology, you should be able to find high-quality pictures of the rooms or even go on virtual tours and watch live video feeds. Just remember to book the room well ahead of time and reserve the tickets before boarding. The most popular tours sell rather quickly and you do not want to miss the opportunity.

Finally, landlovers should not fret once on deck. Cruising is something that quickly grows on you, even if it feels scary at first. Rely on the crew to help you and provide you with all the necessary information. Make sure to let the kids rest after all the fun and games. Do not forget that you can (and should) stay in touch with your kids in case you want to do some activities separately. True, the cell phones won’t work, but Walkie Talkies will do the trick just fine.

Smooth sailing

When planned and done right, a cruise is the perfect vacation for the whole family. To make the magic happen, you have to know where and when you want to go and what you want to get from the vacation. All ships are not created equally and your choices matter a great deal. So, first-time cruisers, brace yourself. Do not skip the research if you want to have the time of your life and explore new horizons with winds in your sails.

Family Cruise - Waves made by a ship in the sea
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
sydney oliviaOlivia is psychologist, traveller and entrepreneur from Brisbane. Mother of two beautiful children and proud owner of two silly boxer dogs, Teo and Mia. She is passionate about writing and always inspiring her readers to be clever in their lives. Her motto is “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Olivia is a regular contributor to High Style Life.
You can also follow on both Twitter and Facebook.
*no remuneration has been received or given in return for hosting this guest post.
** unless stated, the pictures have been provided by the writer for use in this post.
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Be In The Picture 8

As mentioned last month, I am falling behind big time with getting this post done at the beginning of each month. That said, we were travelling in America so I’ll use that excuse this month. Either way, here is August’s post. And wow, what a month it was. We had a quiet start to the month but ended on a huge high in Yellowstone National Park. I’ve managed a few rather nice captures in front of the camera with BattleKid.

We didn’t do much at in the first half of the month. We took this picture of BattleKid and I for a post Cathryn of Cardiff Mummy Says. She was writing about parents twinning and this was me and BattleKid, rockin our blue tees and awesome Toms shoes.

Be in the picture 8 - Mum and son laughing in the garden

BattleKid and I also had a fun evening on the couch and I managed this picture of the two of us. He was happy, I was happy (despite the crazy hair) and it even got featured in a roundup of #showyouwerethere by Madeline of This Glorious Life.

be in the picture 8 mu and son with happy faces on the sofa

August here in Portugal has been hot, hot, hot but we did manage one evening at the beach, which was long overdue. BattleKid loved every minute as he always does and we enjoyed some time together at the shore paddling together. That was before he started jumping waves with BattleDad.

be in the picture 8 - Mum and son holiday hands at the beach

Before we hit America we had 36 hours in London and we decided to have a family day out while we were there. We visited the London Eye, saw the fish of SeaLife and even went dragon hunting at the Tower of London. This picture was taken on Embankment Bridge as we made our way from Southbank to the Tower of London.

be in the picture 8 - mu and son at Embankment Bridge in London

After our fun-filled day in London we flew to America to start a wonderful two-week road trip and it started in wonderful Yellowstone National Park. From geysers to bison to waterfalls, we saw so much and enjoyed every minute of our four days in this stunning place. What a way to end August!

be in the picture 8 - mu and son smiling while waiting for Old Faithful to go off
Happy smiles while waiting for Old Faithful to erupt
be in the picture 8 - mum and son on the Fishing bridge of Yellowstone River
A quiet moment on the Fishing Bridge of Yellowstone River
be in the picture 8 - mum and son watching a herd of bison in Yellowstone
Checking out a small herd of bison in Yellowstone
be in the picture 8 - mum and son beside Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone
An early morning visit to Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone, one of the many waterfalls in the park

 

If you didn’t catch July’s Be in the Picture post, why not check it out. Our USA trip didn’t end there and some of the pictures in September’s post will come from the rest of our trip. So pop back next month to see those!

Initiated by Kerry of Kerry Louise Norris and Alana of Baby Holiday, Be in the Picture encourages us to get in front of the camera instead of always being behind it. I’m guilty of this and by joining in with Be in the Picture, it ensures BattleKid will have pictures of me as well of himself when he grows up.

BubbleBum Travel Car Booster Seat Giveaway

I was recently contacted by the lovely people behind the BubbleBum Booster Seat to see if I’d like to review one. BattleKid is unfortunately not at the stage of being ready for a booster seat. I will also freely admit I was a bit confused as to whether children could still use backless booster seats given the new laws that came into effect at the beginning of the year regarding child car seats.

To help with this confusion, BubbleBum themselves have written a blog post to help customers who might be unsure about the new rules, especially where booster or cushion seats are concerned. Their blog post, along with guidelines from the British Government helped me get clarification about the new rules. If you are unsure about the new rules and whether your child can use one, I urge you to read both links.

 

It turns out that children can still use backless booster seats and for parents who travel or ferry children between cars, a BubbleBum Booster Seat might just be what you are looking for.

The BubbleBum Travel Car Booster Seat is a portable, foldable, inflatable/deflatable, lightweight car booster seat for children aged between 4 and 11 years of age. It easily deflates and packs away, making it ideal for those who travel regularly, for holidays, for taxi journeys, school trips and even the grandparents cars. Winner of more than 20 designs, innovations and safety awards, including Mumsnet, Mother & Baby and Practical Parenting, its narrow design makes it perfect to fit 3 car seats across the rear seat of family cars.

It comes with its own stretchy bag to store in, when not in use, and because it is lightweight, it can easily be carried in a handbag or rucksack so it is close to hand if needed. Available in a range of colours, it also has an added shoulder belt positioning clip to make it extra comfortable.

Made from durable material that is both strong and safe, the BubbleBum has been designed for use by children between the ages of 4 and 11. It has been approved under the United Nations ECE Regulation R44/04 for safety for both Groups 2 and 3. It is designed for use with a standard 3 point adult seat belt that has been approved to ECE Regulation 15 or equivalent. The only countries that are not covered by this legislation are Canada and Australia.

The BubbleBum Booster Seat sells on Amazon, Halfords and Boots for £29.99 but for the next few weeks it will cost £21.99 or €24.99 in all Lidl stores in Ireland and Northern Ireland while stocks last. So, if you could do with a BubbleBum Booster Seat, I urge you to get down to your nearest Lidl to grab one while you can.

However, the lovely people at BubbleBum have offered one of my readers the chance to win one of their Travel Car Booster Seats in black. Just follow the instructions on the widget below and best of luck!

Win a black Bubblebum Booster Seat

Cath x

Terms and conditions:

  • Open to my UK and Republic of Ireland readers only.
  • Closes at midnight Thursday 5th October 2017.
  • One winner will be picked at random and notified within 5 days.
  • There is no cash alternative.
  • One winner will receive a black BubbleBum Booster Seat direct from the company.

Living Arrows 38/52

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth

Kahlil Gibran

I had been thinking we haven’t been up to much since we got back from our USA holiday but then I remembered we did something great at the weekend. We went to the World Superbike Race in Portimao at the weekend. The track is only a little over an hour away from us here in Portugal and the weekend paddock and stand tickets were cheap as chips.

BattleDad and I have been to the Isle of Man TT twice before but this was our first WSB meet. It was also someone’s first big motorbike race meet. We brought him to Aberdare Races last year but WSB is on a whole other level. He wasn’t sure of the noise at first but soon got into it. And he even got a picture with the Yamaha pit girls, although he doesn’t look overly fussed does he!

We are thrilled that we have a race track so close to us here in Portugal. Just another advantage to add to the list. All we need now is for a MotoGP race to be sceduled for Portimao and we’ll be as happy as Larry. That said, Jerez is only two hours away!

living arrows - BattleKid with the Yamaha pit girls at Portimao living arrows - An excited BattleKid at WSB at Portimao

Linking up with Donna of What The Redhead Said. If you’d like to take part or see some other Living Arrows posts, please click the badge below.

Living Arrows

Dragon Hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle

One of the things I wanted to do with BattleKid before we left the UK for Portugal was to visit as many castles in South Wales as we could. We love nothing more than getting out and doing a spot of dragon hunting while we explore old castles and forts. So, while BattleDad was away one weekend, I did a search for castles in South Wales and came upon one which looked great from the picture. And so it was that we went dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle, just me and the boy.

Carreg Cennen Castle

Carreg Cennen Castle, located near Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire, is perched high on top of a hill. Originating somewhere in the 12th century, it has been ruinous since the 15th century when it was vandalised during the War of the Roses. It dominates the skyline of the area around the River Cennan and surrounded by mountainous farming land.

Although quiet and peaceful today, it would have been a hive of activity at the height of its time with stables, workshops and kitchens keeping the castle going on a day-to-day basis. Carreg Cennan Castle is now a part of Cadw.

After visiting a friend in Swansea, BattleKid and I drove the 23 miles from Swansea past Ammanford to start our dragon hunting at Carreg Cennan Castle. I kept looking out for it but it didn’t come into view until we were only a few minutes from it. The closer we got, the more spectacular it looked. I can only imagine what people must have thought back in the 13th and 14th centuries as they approached the castle.

We parked in the car park and walked to the gift shop/restaurant to show our Cadw membership cards. And then it hit me that we had to walk up the hill to get to the castle. I genuinely did not think BattleKid would manage it. There is no way you will get a buggy up that hill. Considering he had not long turned 3 when we visited, I was sure I would hear “Mummy, up” half way up the hill. However, whether it was the promise of seeing the castle or going dragon hunting, he walked the whole way up the hill. I was so proud of him and secretly thankful as I just about managed the climb myself while holding his hand.

As you approach the castle, the views across the countryside are spectacular and you can see why they chose to build a castle on this particular hill. To enter the castle, we climbed a few stone steps before crossing a modern-day steel bridge to the Barbican which led to the Middle Gate Tower, with stunning views.

From there BattleKid and I turned left and went into the area leading to the North-East Tower. We checked in holes in the walls and any other nook and cranny a dragon might use to hide in. But our first check in our hunt didn’t turn up a dragon. We continued our dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle by going into the Hall and Chapel Tower, but no matter where we looked, we couldn’t find the dragon.

We headed across the Inner Bailey to the King’s Tower. However, as it was closed off, we just checked the stairs that we could see but alas, no dragon. I must say, when we visited in January it was bright and sunny, but boy was the wind cold. Despite hats and gloves, we still felt the sharpness to the wind and I can just imagine how hard the inhabitants of the castle must have had it during winter in the 12th to 15th centuries.

But Carreg Cennen Castle is still very beautiful. We carried on across the Inner Bailey to check around the North-West Tower. Despite no sign of a dragon we had lots of fun jumping in puddles left behind by rain.

Then something caught BattleKid’s eye from across the Bailey and off he went running towards the Hall again. He had spotted something red and came back clutching his dragon, having found him hiding in a high hole in a wall. Dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle was a success and he was chuffed with himself.

Hunting and finding the dragon!

After some more puddling jumping, I decided we should start heading back down the castle to the restaurant to get something to warm us up. I was feeling cold and so were BattleKid’s hands. We didn’t do any roly-poly’s here as the ground was slippery and mucky but BattleKid did do some jumping off mounds in the grass.

Once we had descended the hill and passed through the Outer Gate, we went into the restaurant where I ordered a Welsh Cawl for BattleKid and me to share. And my word, was it amazing. Not only was it nice and warm, a very welcome thing, but it was extremely tasty. Certainly, the best Welsh Cawl I’ve ever had. And it wasn’t expensive either at £4.50 for the cawl, some bread and butter, and a chunk of cheese. BattleKid devoured most of it!

dragon hunting at carreg cennen castle
Hurray!

As we were having a nice day out, I took the long way home from Carreg Cennen through the Brecon Beacons National Park. A certain little boy slept most of the way home. I can safely say that our dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle was a resounding success and I’m so glad we visited it before leaving Wales.

Things to note if you go dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle

  • Carreg Cennen Castle is a Cadw site as mentioned and is open every day from 9.30am to 6pm from the 1st April to the 31st October. From 1st November 2017 to the 31st March 2018, the castle is open from 9.30am to 5pm*. The castle is closed on Christmas Day.
  • The whole site and car park are locked daily at 6.30pm.
  • Last admission is 45 minutes before closing, and it costs £5.50 per adult, with children, senior citizens and concession tickets costing £3.50. Children under 5 years of age enter free. As Cadw members our admission was included in our annual pass.
  • There are toilets on site, located in the restaurant or in the car park.
  • There is a restaurant and gift shop on site, and I can highly recommend the Welsh Cawl. There are benches available too.
  • Because the castle is located on a rocky hill, this site is not wheelchair or buggy friendly.
  • There is a car park at the bottom of the castle hill beside the farm and shop, is free and can hold approximately 50 cars.
  • Be aware, due to the location, mobile signal is poor, as I found out.
  • As the castle is privately owned (but managed by Cadw), there are livestock nearby. You are advised not to interact with them on your way to/from the castle itself.

BattleKid and I really enjoyed our time dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle. It made a nice change seeing a castle further away from us rather then visiting Tretower or Abergavenny again. I can recommend it as a place to visit if you are in the Llandeilo area or are looking for a nice day out in South Wales. Be aware that, as it is situated on the top of a hill, you need to climb there to get it, but if 3-year-old BattleKid can manage it, anyone can. The views from the castle are spectacular and the descent down the hill is easy, although be careful if the ground is wet. And do stop off at the restaurant for a well-deserved break afterwards. The Cawl is well worth it.

Have you taken your children dragon hunting yet?

Thanks for reading,

Cath x

*Prices and visiting times correct at the time of writing this post.

dragon hunting at carreg cennen castle dragon hunting at carreg cennen castle