Sailing with Carnival Cruise Line on the Celebrate Freedom cruise, we began in Galveston where recently added Carnival Freedom made a total of three ships sailing from the popular Texas port. Kicking off the event, a pier side, top deck performance by Martina McBride sent the newly-refurbished ship off in style for a day and a half at sea before our first port of call; Costa Maya, Mexico. That gave time to fully explore the ship, tour a new youth program facility and more. Interestingly, we have already received a Texas-sized number of reader questions about Galveston, Carnival’s onboard programming and other interesting topics. Let’s jump in a bit early and knock a few off the list today.
Camp Carnival Is Camp Ocean Now
Roger C from Tulsa, OK asks: “I’m looking forward to hearing more about the new Camp Carnival kids program. We have been thinking of taking our kids and grandkids on a summer cruise. How is that?”
(Roger and his family started sailing with Carnival Cruise Line about the same time we did with our two girls, 15 years ago. Empty nesters now, its been a while since they had a personal interest in the “kids program” so I know where he is coming from)
Thanks for writing again Roger. The first thing to know is that the new Carnival children’s program is named Camp Ocean and features three age groups like Camp Carnival did and still does on other Carnival ships. But that’s about where the similarity ends. New Camp Ocean is similarly divided into Penguins (age 2 to 5), Stingrays (age 6 to 8) and Sharks (age 9-11) and located in the same space high up on deck ten.
During the $70 million remodeling of Carnival Freedom, that space was taken down to bare metal and reconfigured into separate areas for each age group and each has their own curriculum. In the process and impressive to me, Carnival upped the requirements for those who work the space. All crew who work in Camp Ocean have been certified teachers on land, go through extensive background checks and have clear unbreakable rules for handling each age group.
This is much more than a ‘drop your kids off to be occupied while you go have fun’ space and program. Partnering with Dr Seuss (the company, not the man) Camp Ocean includes a family reading room where mom, dad and the kids can gather and spend time together is a comfortable and pleasant space. Parents are given a cell phone to keep with them that enables direct contact ship wide in case of an emergency.
I’ll get into more detail on this space later in the voyage but one impressive fact I can share now involves sanitation. Every toy and space in the area is sanitized twice a day. Even more impressive, carpets are steam cleaned every night. That effort should go a long way to help keep kids healthy as does engaging curriculum that includes a variety of arts and crafts, scavenger hunts that get them out of the space on supervised ‘field trips’ and more. This is a good place: book that cruise.
Sally and Jim from Orlando writes “Ok, so how is that Internet connection they have been bragging about? Any better than any other cruise ship? How is it priced?
Excellent question and the answer is easy: It’s wonderful. We recently had a higher speed Internet connection installed at home giving us 150mbs speed that we just love. We can stream live video, watch movies and upload photos in a flash. I wondered just how much more frustrating using Internet at sea would be from that point on.
As you know from reading here, we have covered this issue frequently for one very big, personal reason: How good (or bad) the Internet connection at sea is often defines a great amount of my experience. I find myself going to bed early so I can get up early and upload photos while others are sleeping. I downsize photos to make them upload faster. Paying by the minute, it gets extremely frustrating to do something as simple as sending an email.
This new system, officially still in the ‘testing’ phase on Carnival Freedom, Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Breeze is an entirely different animal. On our first day, at sea, with thousands of passengers on the ship, I was streaming news, chatting on Facebook, uploading files, reading emails and in a group chat…all at the same time. This is absolutely the answer to prayers and the fastest Internet at sea, by far. No one else comes close. Here are the details:
Also priced right at $99 per week for unlimited, 24 hours a day access, this should be one of the options we can add on in advance of sailing, like prepaid gratuities. It’s just that good and, like buying prepaid gratuities, its another little thing to just get out of the way before boarding. Look for that option to be available in the future and look for this system to rolled out fleet wide soon. In the mean time, this is one additional great reason for you to sail on Carnival Sunshine, my personal favorite ship in the fleet.
They also have a social media package that enables using Facebook and Instagram for $5 per day, unlimited use: perfect for kids.
Fun For Those With Mobility Issues As Well
Mary Jo from Ocala, Florida asks “As you know I am in a wheelchair. How accessible are the upper decks of the ships, the cabins and other areas? Will I be able to manage getting to the buffet and other areas like I have with Holland America?”
Easy question Mary Jo: Absolutely. While the very tiptop decks are not accessible, the pool deck very much is, including the terraced area where the lounge chairs are although there is not equipment to enable mobility-challenged passengers to enter the pool itself. As I was walking around this morning I noticed a ramp that looks to be at about a 15% incline, not too steep to climb in a wheelchair or scooter. Also, there are three sets of elevators on the ship, extra wide hallways and even tables in the buffet area reserved for those with mobility issues. Those don’t have chairs, so they are always available for those who need them.
I also liked what I saw at embarkation, twice because we are on a back to back sailing. At curbside, there were plenty of Carnival people standing by with wheelchairs to get those with limited mobility on the ship safely. They are boarded first, before everyone else too. Those with their own equipment are escorted in with that group as well.
Cabins on this ship, like so many others, have a ½” raised threshold which is easy to get over and modified cabins are fully functional with a restroom that can accommodate a wheelchair. This is an area where Carnival has always excelled and has a special needs department devoted to those with mobility issues. Your travel agent will get a full rundown of the options available on your particular ship and sailing date. A timely tip: Book as far in advance as possible as these modified cabins are limited in number.
What About Those Door Decorations?
Anna R from San Francisco asks “I follow you on Instagram and thought those photos of the cabin door decorations were interesting. Do you have more of those to share?”
You bet Anna, and thanks for reminding me. I was so busy having fun yesterday, I forgot all about it.