Hidden Fees on Cruises – What You Need to Know and How to Get Around Them

We were hosted by Carnival Cruise Line.

While on our recent Mexican Riviera cruise with Carnival, we were able to meet up with a family member who lives in Cabo San Lucas six months out of the year.  She mentioned that she would never do another cruise because there are too many hidden costs.  This got me thinking…

It seems to me that there is confusion when it comes to the gratuities, purchasing beverages, and any other extras on board a cruise, so I just wanted to list out some “hidden” fees you can expect to see on your end-of-cruise bill.

Some Things You Have to Pay for on the Carnival Miracle

  • Casino (if charged to your Sail and Sign card)
  • Gratuities (per person in your cabin) – Ours were $90.65 per person; total: $362.60)
  • Alcoholic Beverages, Sodas and Specialty Coffees
  • Build-A-Bear At Sea Products (Bears are around $26, clothes around $12)
  • Cat in the Hat Breakfast Party ($5 per person)
  • Arcade Games (if charged to your Sail and Sign card)
  • Excursions (if booked through the cruise line)
  • Specialty Dining (Nick & Noras Steakhouse,$35 per person; Chef’s Table, $75 per person)
  • Internet Access (I paid for the $119 package for the week)
  • 15% Bar Gratuity each time you buy a drink
  • Camp Ocean, 10pm and later (Camp Ocean is free until 10pm)
  • Extra Games (ex. BINGO, Beer Pong Tournament, etc.)
Having been on a handful of cruises, I knew to expect the “hidden” fees.  Plus, we always tip our room steward extra and tip our favorite bar tenders extra on top of the 15% bar gratuities that are included in our bill.  We typically budget around $800 for our end-of-cruise bill for our family of 4, but we don’t usually spend this much.

Way to Get Around “Hidden” Fees on a Cruise Ship

I have discovered a few ways to get around some of the “hidden” fees on cruise ship:
Onboard Credit When Booking
Taking advantage of Carnival’s sales and check with your travel agent to see if they are offering any onboard credit.  This is a great way to rack up some credit to spend onboard on things like beverages.  My favorite travel agency is AvoyaTravel.com because they are always offering great bonuses.
Purchase the Beverage Packages

Depending on the types of beverages you plan to be drinking, Carnival offers great beverage packages for the entire family.  You can pre-purchase drinks to keep in your room, like waters, sodas and beer, you can purchase the wine package or the bottomless bubbles package.  Learn more here.


Cruise Loyalty Program Rewards
Carnival has a great program that they call the VIFP program.  If you sail more than once with Carnival, you have the potential to earn lots of great rewards including cabin upgrades, complimentary water bottles, arcade credits and more.
Cruise Cash
This option allows you to purchase credits in increments of $25, $50, $75 and $100 to be applied to your Sail & Sign account so you don’t have to worry about paying after the cruise.  This is a great option for budgeting and is something I recommend you do.
Bring Your Own Drinks (limited) – read more here.

  • Bringing Liquor and Beverages Onboard – Embarkation
    • Guests are prohibited from bringing water, sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages onboard that are packaged in bottles.
    • A small quantity of non-alcoholic beverages (i.e., sparkling water, sodas, juice, and milk) packaged in cans or cartons may be brought onboard on embarkation day and must be in the guest’s carry-on luggage. A small quantity is considered a maximum of 12 sealed, unopened cans/cartons of 12 ounces each or less per person.
    • Guests are prohibited from bringing alcoholic beverages on board with the following exception – At the beginning of the cruise during embarkation day only, guests (21 years of age and older) may bring one 750 ml bottle of sealed/unopened wine or champagne per person in their carry-on luggage. All liquor, beer, other forms of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages outside of this exception are strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked luggage and such items will be confiscated and discarded and no compensation will be provided.
      • A $15 USD corkage fee, per 750 ml bottle, will be charged should guests wish to consume their wine or champagne in the main dining room, steakhouse or bar. A corkage fee is a charge exacted at a restaurant for every bottle served that was not bought on the premises.

  • Bottled Water
    • We know some of our guests are accustomed to bringing on their own supply of bottled water so as part of this policy we have significantly reduced the pricing for (purified) bottled water which will be conveniently delivered directly to your stateroom. Once onboard, the purchase is non-refundable; guests may take home any unopened bottles.
      • Pricing is as follows: 
        • $4.50 USD for a 12-pack of bottled water (16.9 fluid ounce per bottle) for pre-cruise purchase. Please visit The Fun Shops at www.carnival.com/FunShops/in-stateroom-beverages/water to place your order before your cruise to ensure we have an ample supply onboard.
        • $4.50 USD (plus gratuity) for a 12-pack of bottled water (16.9 fluid ounce per bottle) for purchase onboard by contacting Room Service.
  • Distilled Water
    • Guests may bring on board distilled water for use with a CPAP machine or nursery water for families with babies and packed in carry-on luggage.Distilled water may also be purchased onboard at $3.00 USD per gallon by contacting Room Service. The CPAP machine must be packed in carry-on luggage.
  • Coolers
    • Guests are prohibited from bringing large coolers onboard since screening and movement of large coolers through embarkation is an impediment to the boarding and security process. However small, personal-sized coolers, no larger than 12” x 12” x 12” for the purpose of housing small quantities of non-alcoholic beverages and/or medications are permitted as carry-on luggage.
You see, there aren’t really “hidden” fees on a cruise.  There are just things that you never thought to consider when booking your cruise.  Not only do you have to pay for transportation to the cruise terminal and the actual cruise itself, but you should budget for the extra spending you’ll be doing on the ship.  Planning ahead is always a good idea and expecting the unexpected is a must!
Do you have any other tips or tricks to share?  Leave me a comment!

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Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Review – Boardwalk Balcony Cabin

royal caribbean allure of the seas review - boardwalk balcony
Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas cruise ship was the very first cruise our family of three went on back in 2012.  We stayed in the Boardwalk balcony room and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  Check out my review of the room and see why I suggest the boardwalk balcony cabin if you have kids.

Boardwalk Balcony – which rooms to pick!

First off, when booking your cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, try to book boardwalk balcony rooms on level 10 towards the back of the ship.  These rooms always seem to be some of the first to go so try to snag them as quickly as you can.  I suggest rooms 10321, 10323, 10325, 10327, 10329 or 10721, 10723, 10725, 10729 on the other side.  These rooms have a great view of not only the boardwalk, but they can see the ocean out of the back of the ship and, most importantly, the AquaTheater.
If you have little kids that nap or go to bed early, the adults can sit on the balcony and watch the late night AquaTheater performances, movies, etc. while the kids sleep inside the room.
The room is 182 sq ft with a 52 sq ft balcony – pretty average for a cruise ship balcony room.  It just happens to have an awesome view that not all rooms have.  Here is our view from room 10323:
(Sorry for the low-quality images.  Most of the were taken with a phone or a point-and-shoot cam)

Inside the Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom

The room includes a sitting area with a couch and table, private bathroom, hair dryer, TV, radio, phone, mini refrigerator and safe in the closet.
Our room was the perfect size for our little family of 3.  Our stateroom attendant even had a pack n’ play brought in for my daughter.  We had the option of keeping it in the room all day or they offered to remove it when we woke up.  We opted to keep it in our room all day so she could nap in it.  They even provided a little pillow and sheets for her.
To my surprise, once the balcony door was shut, you hardly heard a peep from outside the room.  Occasionally we would hear a noise from the Boardwalk but it was fine.

The Bathroom

I felt that the bathroom was the perfect size for our family.  The shower was quite large for the size of the bathroom.  The sink area was a little small but that is to be expected on a cruise ship.  If I were to change one thing about the bathroom it would be to remove the glass shelf above the sink to allow easier access to the sink.

Storage in the room

  • Our room had a large closet with plenty of hangers for our clothes.  There were also quite a few shelves in the closet for addition storage along with a safe.
  • The bathroom had quite a bit of storage for our toiletries.
  • There was a dresser/shelving unit near the TV.  This was great for all of our clothes that didn’t need to be hung.  The shelves were great for storing all of Charlotte’s toys and food.
  • The mini refrigerator was perfect for what we needed.  We kept some baby food and drinks in it.
  • We were able to fit all of our luggage under the bed to keep it out of the way.  It took us a few days to realize this but it sure did free up quite a bit of space, as you can imagine.
  • The room had a few other little shelves for small items such as your room card, sunscreen, etc.

Kids and Family – Things to do on board the Allure 

H20 Zone kids’ water park:  We had an absolute blast with our 10-month old in the toddler pool.  She was able to sit up in the shallow pool and enjoyed the colors and play areas.
DreamWorks Experience with characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, etc:  There’s so much to take advantage of with the DreamWorks Experience.  Not only can you meet the characters when walking around the ship, you can attend character parades, watch them in the AquaTheater shows, watch DreamWorks movies and even enjoy meals with them.  We did not get a chance to do the character meals but we really enjoyed the performances and parades.

Royal Babies and Tots Nursery:  We took advantage of the nursery during dinner hours.  The normal price for this dedicated nursery is $6/hour but in the evenings it’s $8/hour.  This is well-worth it, in my opinion.  You also can take advantage of their Babies 2 Go program and preorder Huggies diapers, wipes, baby food and more, so that you don’t have to pack it all with you.  The ship also has an area where you can take your little ones to play with toys as a family.
Other ship features for kids and families include: teen programs and hangout spots, complimentary Adventure Ocean Youth Program, games and carousel at the Boardwalk and a 3D movie theater.

The Staff on Allure of the Seas

Our stateroom attendant was so sweet.  She would fold our clothes and put them in neat little piles on the sofa every day.  She also reminded us to always wear our sunscreen and to have fun!  Charlotte loved the towel animals that our stateroom attendant left every day, except for the monkey!  🙂

Check out some footage from our trip:

If you are traveling with kids on the Allure of the Seas, I highly recommend the boardwalk balcony cabins.  You’ll get to enjoy everything the boardwalk side of the ship has to offer while being within walking distance to everything else on the ship.

Cruise Planning: 30 Days Before Your Cruise – What to Do | CarnivalMiracle | Cruising With Kids

This post is part of a sponsored series of collaborations I am doing with Carnival.  As always, all opinions are my own.
I have just about hit that big 3-0 in my “days to cruising” countdown on the Carnival website.  Things are starting to get real now.  If you are at the 30-day countdown, too, congrats!  Here are some cruise planning tips and what you should have done by now.  You’ll also find what you need to do before our next planning checkpoint (15 days).  Cruising with kids?  Stay tuned for my next article.

What To Do 30 Days Prior to a Cruise

  • If you haven’t done so already, make sure you book SHORE EXCURSIONS a.s.a.p.  These book up quickly and you don’t want to miss out on that ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to swim with the dolphins.
  • Complete online check-in.  By doing this early, you are taking care of one more item on your to-do list.  You can print boarding passes and bag tags at this time, as well.
  • Verify your check-in time, dining time and stateroom preferences (bed arrangement).
  • Pre-register the kids for the YOUTH PROGRAM.
  • If you haven’t already done so, set-up your onboard spending account.
  • Prepay gratuities – Call Carnival at 800 764-7419
  • Book any spa treatments or special deliveries (chocolate covered strawberries, wine, etc).

    Packing:
    • Make sure your luggage is in working order and you have enough for the whole family.
    • If traveling with kids, make sure their swimsuits fit and make sure they have enough clothing for the climate you will be traveling to.
    • Start gathering travel-sized products.

    Optional:
    Happy planning!!

    About the Carnival Miracle

    The 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle, which is currently sailing eight-day Caribbean cruises from New York will reposition to the West Coast in March 2013 to operate voyages to the Mexican Riviera, Alaska and Hawaii.

    In addition to a diversity of “themed” lounges, bars and nightspots, Carnival Miracle features myriad full-service and casual dining choices, an on-board health and fitness facility, supervised programs for children, teens and ‘tweens, and a golf program offering golf excursions and personalized lessons.

    PUBLIC ROOMS AND AREAS

    Carnival Miracle features a variety of dramatic public spaces that are Inspired by characters from novels, songs, poems, myths, movies and Broadway. These “fabulous fictional icons” were chosen for their styles that evoke a different mood in each of the Carnival Miracle’s public areas and rooms. Venues include Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab, a two-level dance club patterned after the legendary creature and his creator; the Mad Hatter’s Ball, a show lounge that pays homage to the playful Alice in Wonderland character; and the Phantom Theater, which resembles the Paris Opera House, where much of the famous Broadway musical takes place. Other rooms include Sam’s, inspired by the watering hole in the classic film Casablanca; the Raven Library, patterned after the classic Edgar Allen Poe novel; and the Gotham Lounge, which takes its cue from the metropolis made famous in the popular Batman comic books.

    DINING OPTIONS

    Dining is considered by many to be the highlight of a “Fun Ship” cruise and Carnival Miracle offers a wide variety of delectable formal and casual choices to suit any mood or taste.

    In addition to the full-service two-level Bacchus dining room featuring extensive menus and wine lists, Carnival Miracle includes Horatio’s, a casual poolside eatery offering full breakfast and lunch buffets, a 24-hour pizzeria, a New York-style deli, and Asian and American specialty areas. Carnival Miracle also houses Nick & Nora’s, a classic American steakhouse. Vegetarian, children’s and health-conscious menu selections are also featured on all dining room menus. A sushi bar, patisserie and complimentary 24-hour stateroom service will also be available.

    ON-BOARD PROGRAMS

    ‘CAMP CARNIVAL,’ ‘CIRCLE C,’ ‘CLUB O2’ – Building upon Carnival’s distinction as the family cruise leader carrying 725,000 children annually fleetwide, Carnival Miracle offers organized programs for three different age groups – Camp Carnival for 2- to 11-year-olds, Circle “C” for 12- to 14-year-olds, and Club O2 for 15- to 17-year-olds – with supervised activities and expansive, modern facilities for each group. Carnival Miracle also houses four swimming pools, including a children’s wading pool and an aft pool with a twisting, turning water slide.

    HEALTH AND FITNESS FACILITY

    Fitness has become an important part of everyday life and guests sailing on Carnival Miracle can take advantage of the ship’s 14,500-square-foot Spa Carnival, which features exercise equipment, a gymnasium, and body and facial treatments, including a number of exotic “European-style” therapies. A salon offering a variety of hair, nail and make-up services are available, as well.

    SPACIOUS ACCOMODATIONS

    Eighty percent of the Carnival Miracle staterooms offer a balcony or ocean view- perfect for scenic Caribbean cruising. As part of Carnival’s fleetwide stateroom amenities, all of the Carnival Miracle’s staterooms feature the Carnival Comfort Bed sleep system, featuring plush mattresses, luxurious duvets and duvet covers, fluffy pillows and high quality sheets and linens. All accommodations include terrycloth bathrobes and all staterooms offer in-cabin amenity kits with a variety of brand-name product samples for men and women.


    INTERNET CAFÉ, WI-FI ACCESS, CELL PHONE SERVICE

    Like all “Fun Ships,” Carnival Miracle offers an Internet café with private workstations featuring flat-screen monitors, along with Wi-Fi access available in virtually all public rooms and areas. Guests can also make and receive cell phone calls whether the ship is at sea or in port.

    Happy cruise planning!  If you are traveling with kids this cruise, keep a lookout for some awesome kid-friendly Carnival activities that I will be sharing.


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    Highlights From our Trip to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo

    If you’re working on your summer travel plans, you should definitely consider a trip to Mexico.  I’m absolutely obsessed with Cabo and Puerto Vallarta and would love to see more of Mazatlan.  Here are some pictures from our trip to the three destinations with Norwegian Cruise Lines.

    Swimming With Dolphins in Cabo San Lucas | Cabo Adventures

    Cabo Adventures provided us with a discount in exchange for blog coverage.  Any opinion expressed in this article is based on my experience with the company.
    It’s no secret that my family loves to travel.  There’s just something about vacation – no responsibilities, no cleaning, swimming… ahhh!  This June we headed down to Cabo San Lucas for a week of fun in the sun.  You may have seen my recent post highlighting the Villa La Estancia but I wanted to share another fun bucket list activity we did while in Cabo, the Cabo dolphin experience from Cabo Adventures.

    Swimming with the dolphins has been one of my bucket list items for years.  I’ve wanted to do it since my husband and I honeymooned in Cabo five years ago.  Since I was pregnant, I chose to do the Dolphin Encounter.  It was a little safer option and I am so happy I did it.  The Dolphin Encounter gives you an opportunity to learn more about the bottlenose dolphins and even kiss and dance with dolphin.  My experience lasted about 30-40 minutes and I just fell in love with that adorable dolphin.  I was very surprised by the feeling of the dolphin’s skin and it was just amazing to hear the dolphin “sing” up close.  This is definitely a must for the entire family next time you head to Cabo San Lucas.
    Cabo Adventures offers various dolphin programs for people of all ages and comfort levels.  They even have a dolphin kids program.  Unfortunately, my daughter was terrified to go in the big pool with the dolphins so she watched from afar with her daddy.
    The Cabo Adventures staff was very professional and so friendly and helpful.  They truly made the dolphin experience a memorable one and I can’t thank them enough for that.  

    Booking

    Visit their website at www.cabo-adventures.com to check out there various tourist activities including the amazing dolphin experiences.

    Norwegian Star Cruise Review – Mexican Riviera Itinerary

    Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is known for their more relaxed, cruise-your-way type of style.  If you aren’t the type of person that likes structure on vacation, this might be the cruise line for you.  Having never been on a NCL ship myself, I didn’t know what to expect of the Norwegian Star ship, it’s staff, entertainment, etc.  Let’s just say I was less than impressed and probably won’t be cruising on the Norwegian Star again.  That’s not to say their other ships and itineraries are better, though.  I’m just going to briefly cover the reasons why I was not happy with our cruise.

    ABOUT NORWEGIAN STAR

    Norwegian Star blends the relaxed Freestyle Cruising concept with cruises to the Baltic capitals from Copenhagen, Denmark or the Mexican Rivera from Los Angeles. On board Norwegian Star features 14 delicious dining options, 9 bars and lounges, a sprawling spa, an always-exciting casino, plus tons of fun for kids of every age. So whether you’re exploring Northern Europe or sipping margaritas in the Mexican Rivera, this ship offers it all.

    Your Cruise Includes:

    – 5 complimentary dining options, from three-course dining to endless buffets with action stations.
    – Entertainment day and night.  Spectacular stage shows, The Second City comedy, dance clubs, bars and lounges, piano bars and live music.
    – Fitness Center, sports court, pools and hot tubs.
    – Youth programs children ages 3-17.
    – attentive room steward and complimentary room service.

    MEXICAN RIVIERA CRUISE ITINERARY

    Cruise along the Mexican Riviera for a festive 7-day vacation. In Cabo San Lucas, be sure to visit El Arco, a stunning rock formation. The beaches in Mazatlan will take you to paradise while you enjoy local, authentic fare. This cruise embarks and returns to Los Angeles, so it’s easy to get onboard.
    Day Land Tours and Cruise Ports Arrive Depart
    Sun Los Angeles (EMBARK) 4:00 pm
    Mon At Sea
    Tue Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 12:00 pm 7:00 pm
    Wed Mazatlan, Mexico 8:00 am 5:00 pm
    Thu Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 8:00 am 5:00 pm
    Fri At Sea
    Sat At Sea
    Sun Los Angeles (DISEMBARK) 8:00 am

    My Experience on the Norwegian Star – Mexican Riviera Itinerary (2014)

    The Ship:


    At first sight, this ship is gorgeous and huge.  Upon stepping in the doors you are greeted by friendly staff and a little bit of chaos (like any cruise).  This ship is a bit difficult to navigate around, more so than the other ships I’ve been on.  The decor is nice and exactly what I would expect on a cruise ship.  The ship always seemed to be clean and tidy and there were plenty of hand sanitizing stations throughout.

    Balcony Stateroom

    Our stateroom was pretty clean for the most part.  We had to ask our room steward to immediately come in and remove a ketchup stain from the couch and the bathroom wasn’t clean when we boarded but we gave our steward some more time to get it all finished and he cleaned it up.
    The bed was comfortable despite the fact that we had requested a pad for the top and never received it.  The layout of the room was pretty standard for a balcony stateroom and I was pleased to see that the television was updated.  There was plenty of storage space under the bed for our luggage, stroller and extras and the closet was plenty spacious for our family.  I like that the shower had an actual door on it rather than a shower curtain and the toilet area even had it’s own clear door.
    Our balcony was very dirty, the glass was covered in spillage from the previous passengers and we couldn’t escape the smoking neighbors.  The chairs and table on the balcony were great, though.

    Dining

    Let me just say… DO NOT EAT AT THE BUFFETS.  My family and I pretty much lived off hamburgers by the pool during lunch time because the buffet lunches and dinners were horrible.  I will admit that the hamburgers and french fries were fresh and quite tasty, but we got really sick of them. Also, each day by the pool the staff would cook a fresh lunch which usually consisted of a hodgepodge of ingredients and wasn’t really that tasty.  We tried the main dining room for lunch one day and I was pleased with my Philly cheese steak sandwich.
    We typically went to the main dining room for most dinners since the buffet was so horrible.  The staff was always friendly and extremely helpful with my toddler.  They always made sure to bring her food before everyone else’s which I appreciate.  The appetizers, meals and desserts weren’t anything to write home about, though.  I actually think that my daughter’s kid’s meals were better tasting than the adult meals.  The fettuccine Alfredo was bland, the steak was fatty, the appetizers weren’t impressive and the desserts were not tasty at all.  The best meal I had for dinner was the eggplant Parmesan which arrived piping hot and fresh.
    Overall I was very dissatisfied with the free dining options that this ship had to offer.  Since we have a toddler, we tend to stick to the free dining options as not to disturb the families in the paid dining rooms.

    Pools

    This ship features two water slides for the older kids and adults which were just okay.  I did notice the same kids sticking to them most of the time and they seemed to be having a blast.  I’m sure if I was a kid I would’ve had a blast, too.  The adult pool was always a little on the cold side but was nice and refreshing if you needed to escape the heat.
    There wasn’t much seating around the pool area and we always seemed to struggle to find a group of four lounge chairs, even at 10am.  The ship seemed very overcrowded near the pool and pool dining area.  Many times we had people walking through our outdoor dining table and seating just to get to where they needed to go.
    And the smokers.  Let me just say, YUCK!  The cruise we went on had so many smokers near one side of the pool and, being pregnant, I felt like I couldn’t even escape the toxic air.
    The Kids Pool – Being a parent of a toddler, a ship with a kiddie pool is a must.  I had done research before we chose this cruise to make sure the kids pool would work for us and it seemed like it would, until we were on the ship.  There was no seating around the kids pool area besides two or three little picnic tables in the shade (which were always occupied).  The adults in our party had to literally sit on the hot, dirty ground on our towels while we watched my daughter play.  The kids pool area is located in the back of the ship so you get nice whiffs of the ship’s exhaust.  Not an ideal situation.  The rocket slide and pool was my daughter’s favorite and we pretty much stuck to that.
    Overall, I was very unhappy with the kid’s pool and the seating situation.

    Entertainment

    I would say that the entertainment on this ship was it’s best feature.  All of the shows we saw were phenomenal and really held my toddler’s attention.  We came out of each show “wowed” and couldn’t wait for the next one.  If you cruise on this ship I recommend you dine early and hit the first show each night.



    Vallarta Adventures Las Caletas Beach Hideaway

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta
    I’m working on my travel plans for Puerto Vallarta this June and making a list of all of things I would like to do there this time around.  I visited Las Caletas on a Mexican Riviera cruise in 2014 with Norwegian Cruise Line with my parents and oldest daughter.  I was pregnant with my youngest at the time, so was limited with the activities I could do around Puerto Vallarta.  The Las Caletas Beach Hideaway through Vallarta Adventures came highly recommended by travel reviewers and is my number one excursion recommendation, as well.
    If you’re visiting Puerto Vallarta, you’ve got to make a special trip to Las Caletas.  This was once the private home of film director John Huston.  He considered it one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I would have to agree.  Las Caletas is nestled in a secluded nature preserve on the southern shores of Banderas Bay.  Currently run by Vallarta Adventures, this excursion is a must-visit exclusive tropical beach hideaway for the whole family.

    One of my favorite things about Las Caletas was the photography staff.  My family was able to enjoy all that Las Caletas had to offer without having to worry about taking photos.  On the boat ride back to the mainland, we were able to buy a USB stick with all of our photos for $40.  It was well worth it.
    From cooking classes to water sports to animal encounters, Las Caletas keeps you as busy as you’d like to be.  This year, my (almost) 5-year old will be able to experience the amazing Kids Adventure Park on Las Caletas.
    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta
    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta

    Las Caletas Beach Hideaway - Vallarta Adventures - Puerto Vallarta
    What else should we do while we’re in Puerto Vallarta this year?  

    The Tremont House Review | A Wyndham Grand Hotel in Galveston, Texas | Galveston Cruise Port


    If you’re planning on staying in Galveston, Texas, let the charm, hospitality and old world comfort of The Tremont House sweep you off your feet.  Upon arrival, you will be greeted by the friendly door staff who will happily assist you with your luggage and belongings.

    As you walk up the entryway stairs, the view of a grand piano and cozy lounge areas welcomes you home.  The gorgeous floors, wall details, live trees and wall art truly make you feel like you’re in the lap of luxury.
    The Tremont Cafe

    The new Tremont Cafe (below) serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as items for room service.  The cafe features Starbucks coffee, pastries, a pizza oven, gourmet sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts.  Each booth offers a computer with Wi-Fi which was great at breakfast time.  We were able to let our little one watch PBS Kids, just like at home.

    The food we tried in our short one night stay was fantastic.  My husband and dad went out on the town for a “guys night” and the girls (my mom, my daughter and I) stayed in for a quiet girl’s night.  We went downstairs and placed our order — a pizza for the adults and a grilled cheese for my daughter.  Since the food was going to take a few minutes to prepare, the cafe worker told us to head back to our room and they would have our food delivered.  Everything unbelievably tasty and fresh and the prices were great.  Our fruit and cheese platter (below) was also delivered by the room service attendant.
    For breakfast the next morning, my husband and I split a breakfast panini (yum!).  The sandwich was so big that just one half filled each of us up.  The waffles and quiche were also tasty.

    Rooftop Bar

     Unfortunately, we stayed at The Tremont House on a Sunday night so we missed the chance to check out the Rooftop Bar in action.  Something to look forward to next time, I guess.

    The Tremont House Video

    The Room

    An average room at The Tremont House is typically in the $100 to $200 range depending on when you are staying.  Of course, because this is a popular cruise port, weekend visits will hit the wallet harder than midweek stays.
    My family was absolutely in awe over the charm and detail of our room.  From the wallpaper to the brass fixtures to the textiles and furniture, this hotel room was by far the classiest we’d ever stayed in.  The 12-foot ceilings with crown molding made the 800 square foot room feel even larger than it was.  The aged hardwood floors throughout the entire room were beautiful.  The living area of the room was covered with a chic rug for a cozy feel.

    The Beds

    The 100% cotton linens by the House of Anchini were more comfortable than our linens at home.  Did I mention the beautiful bed frame?  Take a look at the gorgeous bed frames (above and below).

    The Bathroom

    I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘okay, why is this lady showing me a picture of a bathroom?’  Well, because this bathroom is unlike anything I’ve seen in a hotel.  And I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels.  The heavenly-scented Gilchrest & Soames bath amenities made bath time so enjoyable.  The beautiful tile and countertops made this bathroom feel so luxurious.  Everything was so clean and spot free.

    The View from our Room

    We had a gorgeous view of the water and old buildings from our window.  Upon arrival, we could still see the Carnival Magic cruise ship which we had just disembarked from.

    The Staff

    I started chatting with a friendly staff member who mentioned that she had worked at The Tremont House since it opened in 1985.  She said she had just one more year until retirement and then she would be returning home to Thailand to take care of her mother.  She talked about how she moved here with her sister as a young lady and started a family with a man from the US Navy.  She talked about her daughter and grandsons and how tall they were compared to her.  We both chuckled.  We were looking at the live trees in the bar area and she mentioned that when she first began working at the hotel, the trees were her height, which couldn’t have been more than 5 feet tall.  You can see in the picture above (with the piano) how tall the trees are now.  The woman talked about how a flood came through the hotel and how they were able to salvage some of the wood areas, like the bar.  Friendly staff members like this are what make vacations memorable.  I wish this staff member the very best in her retirement.

    Jazz at The Tremont House

    Every Thursday night during Fall, The Tremont House is offering a Fall Jazz Series.  Sip on a glass of wine or a martini and let the Jazz take you back in time.

    To read more about the history of The Tremont House, click here.

    Belize Cruise Port | Belize Zoo and City Tour Shore Excursion

    Carnival Cruise Line offers many cruise itineraries that visit the friendly port of Belize City.  Belize City has not been a favorite cruise port of many travelers, but we had a great visit to this historical capitol city and I can’t wait to visit again.
    Due to flooding from a recent storm, our beach shore excursion in Belize had been cancelled.  The Carnival crew was able to offer us some other excursion options, but not all of them were good for our 2-year old.  We ended up choosing the Belize Zoo and City Tour expecting it to be just an okay time.  We are beach people, so a zoo tour was not ideal.  Much to our surprise, this was one of our favorite family-friendly excursions we’ve done.
    Our tour guide, Elvis Usher, made this tour great.  He was very enthusiastic and knew so much about the zoo and animals.  He even helped us get better shots of some of the animals that were hiding in hard to get to places.


    Carnival’s Belize Zoo and City Tour Excursion Description

    Belize’s zoo, historical highlights and multicultural flavor await you. Ride along the old wooden colonial homes and modern cement structures that line the narrow city streets of Belize, including the 200-year-old Cathedral and the famous lighthouse. The Belize Zoo covers 29 acres of tropical savannah and features over 125 animals native to Belize. You will enjoy approximately 1.5 hours touring the Zoo and Education Center, viewing a magnificent range of mammals, birds and reptiles.


    What to Know Before You Go

    Ever heard the term, “bug bit in Belize?”  It’s true!  You’ll probably end coming home with some souvenir bug bites if you visit this port.  If you plan to do this tour (or any in Belize), bring your bug spray and use it generously.  Also, bring cold bottled water for the entire family because it is hot and humid in the zoo.
    Kids

    If traveling with kids, bring a lightweight single stroller for each child.  If they can handle being out of the stroller for about 4.5 hours, I recommend leaving it on the ship.  The pathways are narrow and you might encounter some flooding, mud or puddles that you need to navigate over or around.
    Bus Ride

    If you get car sick, I recommend bringing SeaBands or dramamine for the bus ride.  On our way back from this excursion, the rising river had started to wash away the road so we were forced to wait for repairs to finish.  At one point we were told we would have to walk across the road where another vehicle would pick us up.  It was quite the adventure but we maintained a positive attitude the entire time.
    What to Bring:

    Water
    Snacks (PB&J’s from the ship, boxes of cereal from the ship, etc)
    Sunscreen
    Hat
    Sunglasses
    Insect Repellant
    Comfortable Shoes and Clothing

    Would I recommend this excursion?

    Absolutely!  This was surprisingly very fun and interesting.  It was nice to take a break from swimming and the sun, too.