I have always been a passionate traveler. I love experiencing new places, cultures, foods and activities. I’m a firm believer that traveling and escaping from the day-to-day monotony of every day life is good for your soul and overall well-being. With the weather getting chillier here in the Midwest, the travel bug is biting me hard right now. So while I’m daydreaming of warmer days with sandy beaches and unlimited cocktails, I figured I would share one of my all-time favorite vacations that I’ve been on – a Western Caribbean Carnival Cruise!
A little back story – I lived in Southern California for a few years and while I was there, I met this spunky, crazy, vibrant girl, Katie, back in 2011 and we just clicked instantly.
Her laugh is infectious and she is the no filter/no shame type of friend that will have you rolling for hours on end. I ended up moving back to Illinois and she moved back to Oklahoma, but we’ve always stayed in touch and try to make it a point to visit each other or plan a trip somewhere together at least once a year. It never fails that every time we meet up, it turns into an epic adventure. So when Katie invited me on a cruise with her and some of her friends back in September 2015, I knew that was not a trip I was going to miss out on.
We went through a travel agent to book our cruise which made for an easy and stress-free experience (I highly recommend doing this if you are traveling outside the U.S.). A few months later, I booked a flight to Houston and before I knew it, I was flying out to meet up with Katie and her friends. We drove down to Galveston and the next morning, we boarded the Carnival Freedom for an amazing seven days at sea.
Day 1 and 2 were spent on the ship. We had an awesome time catching up, chowing down at Guy’s Burger Joint, sipping cocktails and lounging in the sun. At night, we were somewhere between the casino and the night club (or the 24-hour pizza place of course). We had a great little interior room. Although we wanted a balcony, we didn’t find ourselves spending that much time in the room anyway so it was perfect for us.
Two things I absolutely love about cruising with Carnival is their amazing food selection and the never-ending entertainment. They offer meals around the clock and they have an incredible dinner selection in the dining room every evening. We had two formal dinner nights which is always fun to dress up for. They also have some sort of performance every night during dinner which is always a blast. They also have a theatre onboard with live performances of some sort nightly.
The food presentation at dinner was always on point and the cuisine was beyond delicious! They’ve got something for everyone. What makes it so great is that you can order multiple apps, entrees or desserts if you wish which allows you to try so many incredible dishes. Here are just a few of the amazing meals we got to experience onboard!
And don’t even get me started on these desserts!
I gained every bit of 5 lbs on this cruise, but the food was totally worth it! They also have a ton of other food options throughout the day – buffets, pizza, burgers, Mexican – you name it, they probably have it.
Also, I have to give major kudos to Carnival for their staff. They are seriously top notch. This is the second Carnival cruise I’ve been on and I have been nothing short of incredibly impressed with every staff member I’ve come across both times. They are so friendly and they go above and beyond for you any time, day or night, to make sure every aspect of your cruise is amazing. And not to mention, they leave us with these cute towel animals with turndown service every night.
Ok, back to the good stuff 🙂
Our first stop on day 3 was Montego Bay, Jamaica. We opted for a simple all-inclusive beach day at Sunset Beach Resort/Sunscape Splash and it was perfect.
I can’t make these views up y’all. Even now, I still remember this day so clearly. I had been working myself to death between three jobs and I was still struggling to get by, saving every last penny I had to go on this trip to have the time of my life. In this moment, I just remember feeling so carefree. It was like I could almost feel the stress and everything that had been weighing me down just floating away. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling.
We met an awesome group from England, chatted with some newlyweds, tried real Jamaican jerk chicken and watched a storm roll in. Our awesome bartender, Tony, kept the drinks flowing all day (the Bob Marley drinks pictured above were our favorite!). The beach was far from packed which made for an incredibly relaxing day.
On day 4, we arrived in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. I thought Jamaica was amazing, but the water here was even clearer and more serene. Although the beach was a little more crowded, there was still more than enough room to lounge comfortably.
We started the day with an excursion at Dolphin Discovery (it’s always been my dream since I was little to swim with dolphins so I was way too excited about this!). I got some awesome pictures swimming with them and had an absolute blast.
Our group took a guided tour bus around the city where we learned about the culture and what Cayman has to offer. We also stopped at Cayman Turtle Farm and got to get up close with turtles and other marine wildlife. We spent the rest of our day in Cayman hanging at Seven Mile Beach and swimming in the crystal clear water. It was an absolutely incredible day.
On Day 5, we arrived in Cozumel, Mexico. I really enjoyed all of the places we went, but I think this one was my favorite. The water was clear, the city is vibrant and colorful and the people were very friendly.
We took a taxi to Mr. Sancho’s, an all-inclusive beach club with tons of activities. We decided to go parasailing and do the all-inclusive day (unlimited food and drinks, pools and beach). They also offer a ton of other activities like snorkeling, jet-skiing, paddle-boarding, horseback riding, ATV riding, fish spa and a water park. Just an FYI.. there is an additional fee for each excursion, but they are pretty reasonable.
Day 7 was our last day at sea before heading back to Galveston. We spent the day lounging poolside soaking up the sun. Although we traveled during hurricane season (which generally runs from the beginning of June until the end of November in this area), we luckily were able to avoid having to deal with any bad weather during our entire cruise. If you get the opportunity to travel to any of these countries or better yet, to take a cruise, I highly recommend it. This is hands down one of the best vacations I have ever been on. I came home feeling refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated which is exactly what I needed.
What are some of your favorite tropical travel destinations/cruises that you’ve been on? I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments below!