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Carnival Cruises for Toddler and First Timer's

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We're looking to take a cruise for the first time (we're usually land people) but thought we'd try something new. Our key goals are to have a relaxing time, some entertainment choices, good food and activities/care for our 2 year old.

We considered Disney and Royal Caribbean but then found out for 2 year olds we have to pay or book for nursery times plus the kids that aren't potty trained aren't allowed in the pools. We ultimately want to spend as much time as we can as a family, and not enjoying the facilities together (like the pools) is not our idea of a vacation.

So, now we're considering a Carnival Cruise having heard good things about the flexible Camp Carnival, and the fact kids don't have to potty trained to be included in the kiddy pool. We are contemplating the Dream or Freedom ships for Eastern Caribbean - but have heard mixed reviews about the Cruise Line. Any input on the following would be great:
- Is Carnival a family suited ship? Or is it a mix of young college kids looking to party?
- Would this be a wrong choice for our first time on a cruise?
- Are the ships generally overcrowded with little room for people in the pools or common areas?
- Any other pro's or con's that are worth mentioning?

Many thanks!!!

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    I can't speak to the pool issue directly, but I thought that Disney did have a specially-filtered pool open to non-potty trained kids.

    The good news about Carnival is that the crew in the kids club will change diapers, and that is a huge plus for any parent, I would imagine. No beeper to keep you constantly on call.

    The food on Carnival is good, and the cabins are a tad larger than standard in the lower-level staterooms. It's a particularly good family cruise line.

    On the negative side, I think you'll find lots of crowded pool decks and lack of chairs, but that's true on all the big ships. It's uncomfortable, and the only way around it is to pay extra to stay in a less crowded (but much more expensive) part of a large ship that gives you access to separate, less crowded amenities. NCL and MSC Cruises do a particularly good job on that front. But HAL (not as family-friendly as Carnival) does have separate concierge-run sun decks with private cabanas for some extra money (on Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam). But the access to the pools on the HAL ships isn't very convenient to the cabanas, though some stuffier ones are available poolside.

    All in all, Carnival is a good line for a first-time cruiser if you want a mainstream cruise. If you have the money, you'll find more to like on a smaller luxury ship, but then those lines don't tend to be as child-friendly (and may not even allow young children).

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    You won't find a lot of college party goers if you go during non school vacation times. We've cruised with Carnival during spring break and there was a little bit of a wild crowd. Also cruised with them when the high school and college kids were in school. It was very nice. We've seen Camp Carnival goings on and it looked like the kids were having fun and being well cared for. We've cruised with several companies and like Carnival every bit as well as the others. Their prices are extremely competitive and the ships are comfortable, cabins roomy, staff professional, food good.

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    Some good advice above. I would also add that you'll have fewer partiers on 7-night cruises vs. shorter ones. Cruises leaving from Puerto Rico vs. Miami tend to have fewer kids as well. Good luck!

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    My wife and I took our 22-month old on the Carnival Freedom last year to Mexico/Costa Rica/Panama. We had a great time, and are thinking about another cruise this year. On this ship, the kids are technically supposed to be pottie-trained, but we saw many kids wearing diapers. The kiddie-pool was secluded, and we never saw any staff there. We took a small inflatable pool for our son and let him play in that. It worked well because we placed it directly next to the kiddie-pool so he could play with the other kids.

    They offered child care for around $6/hour for two hours around lunch. We wanted to spend most of our time together, but it was nice to be able to drop him off in a safe environment. They give you a phone and call if your child wants you, and you can also call them. He seemed to really enjoy it, and we were kind of hurt when he ran in the first time we dropped him off and he didn't even turn around to say bye! Safety was our top priorty, and we felt it was very secure. It was a large play area with many things to play with. We also dropped him off one night so we could go to one of the shows.

    Regarding the crowd, you'll have to deal with more older people than college-age kids. I don't recall seeing many, if any, college-age kids. Like anywhere, there were a few older people that didn't want our child around, but for the most part, most people enjoyed having him around. We received many compliments regarding his behavior on the ship and on the excursions. The staff in the dining room just ate him up.

    The pools and hot tubs were crowded, but since we had our son with us most of the time, it really wasn't that big of a deal. They have an adults-only area with hot tubs that my wife and I went to when our son was in Camp Carnival. Sometimes my wife and son would stay in the room and I would go to the pools and hot tubs myself.

    Overall, we really enjoyed the trip. We thought it was an excellent choice with a small child because there were so many things to do for all of us. I've probably gone on too long, but let me know if you have any other questions.

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