How to get a Cruise Deal?

I have had several people ask…”how can I get a cruise for less than $200 per person?”  Well if you have time to go on a cruise out of New Orleans in January of 2014, you can cruise with a family of four for $981.68.    For 1021.68 you can book the same cruise under a price guarantee, if the price gets lower they will adjust your rate.  Go to the Carnival Web Site to check the rates out.  If you are traveling with someone 55 years or older or have a military ID the discounts could even be better!  Note the cruise rate is 816 (right at 200 each) plus 205 in taxes.  I go to this site quite frequently to check out the rates!

Note:  if you can leave out of Miami January 13, 2014 a four day cruise for a family of four is only 885.88!!!!

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Do Not Let Distance Get in the Way!

cosmospizza

The older we get the more friendships we have built.  Like many of you I struggle to stay close with friends that have moved away.  Thankfully,  with the use of facebook we can keep up with the happenings in each others lives.  However, nothing comes close to that face to face encounter with a friend.  Even more priceless is watching our children build a bond that hopefully they will carry on for a lifetime.

My friend Brandie moved out of Huntsville about eight years ago.  We promised that we would make time to see one another at least once a year.  The first few years were though and we fell short keeping that promise.  My twins were just born and one of them had serious health problems.  Three years later I found myself getting divorced.  Brandie was also home with a baby by then.  Needless to say we were both busy with multiple aspects of our lives.  When things finally calmed down we were ready to make the first trips.

Our first two reunion trips had us meeting at the family beach condo in Destin.  There are so many wonderful things about mature friendships.  One of them is that there is no need to impress.  Our meetings are always casual, focused on the kids during the day and then having that quality girl time after the kids are in bed.  We do not try to occupy our days with too much activity.  The kids are happy at the condo, at the pool and on the beach.  We kept meals simple and stress free as well.

Then there was the time we had no idea we were meeting.  It was purely fate.  It had been a while since we talked and our phone conversation one evening left us awaiting a BIG SURPRISE!  We were going to be at WALT DISNEY WORLD at the same time!  Wow it really is the most magical place on earth!  My boys and I were already super excited about the trip but this would make it better than we could ever have imagined.  Once again, a seasoned friendship served us well on this trip.  With four small children, a niece and a set of grandparents plus Brandie and me Walt Disney World would never be the same.

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Most recently we decided on a last-minute trip to Birmingham, AL.  We booked two rooms at the Embassy Suites for a Saturday night.  We met for lunch that day at Cosmo’s Pizza in trendy Five Points South.  From there we spent a fun afternoon at the McWane Science Center.  At about 4pm we made our way to the hotel where we spent the rest of the evening swimming and catching up.

For me,  it is important to keep these lifetime friendships alive and healthy.  As adults,  we often find ourselves so busy with life and obligations that our needs to foster friendships fall to the wayside.  It is understandable that life’s obstacles and challenges make it difficult to escape to meet that dear friend.  For Brandie and me, we had those circumstance in the early years after her move.  For now we are both in a phase in our lives where impromptu meetings are a reality.  We look forward to these getaways as do our children.    If you are reading this I hope it makes you think of your lifetime friend that is overdue for a face to face visit!  A word of advice anytime we tried to plan something a long way out it never happened!  We have learned to plan no more than a month in advance.  This has worked for the two of us with Brandie only 4 hours away.  A new chapter is about to begin in her life which puts our distance at about ten hours.  That may take a little better planning…our friendship is worth it!

Let me know what your favorite traditions are with your long distance friends.  Would love some fun suggestions for our next impromptu adventure!

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Up A Creek Review

Up A Creek: Hampton Cove’s Indoor Adventure Destination
FEB 19, 2013

Up A Creek: Hampton Cove’s Indoor Adventure Destination

EDITOR’S NOTE: We had heard about Hampton Cove’s indoor play area, Up A Creek Adventures, and sent RCM writer, Melika, to take her crew over to investigate. Be sure to read more Rocket City Mom Reviews of local attractions, playgrounds, and events before you take your family out for a treat!

Details

Location: 5575 Highway 431 South, Brownsboro, AL
Phone: 256-270-8570
Website: www.upacreekadventures.com
Admission:
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday walk-in play $7 from 10:00 AM – Noon.
Saturday open play 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM $9.50 for first child, siblings $6.
Various birthday party packages range from $235-$435.
Here’s a detailed list of hours and rates.

What was your kids’ favorite features at Up A Creek? 
My son and his friends (mainly second grade boys) love the climbing wall challenge and the snow board simulator (surf board in summer months). There is a playhouse with a slide that the kids also enjoyed. Air hockey and Foosball is also a huge hit with boys and girls alike. A separate area is available for toddlers and younger kids to keep them safe from the older ones. The younger kids really have fun in the bounce houses – one is a bus and the other has a forest theme.

Kids of all ages will love it!

Kids of all ages will love it!

Is the facility clean and well-maintained? 
The play area is very clean. Kids must bring socks to play and shoes are not allowed on the equipment. Food is only allowed in the Creekside Cafe area. There are three bottles of Germex (magic soap) located for the staff and customers to use. The staff tells me the bathrooms are cleaned two to three times daily or more often if needed. Of course the playland equipment is new, so there is not much wear and tear and it is well maintained.

Can you bring in outside food or are snacks available to purchase?
No outside food or drinks are allowed, but the Creekside Cafe has snacks, drinks and ice cream available for purchase ranging in price from .25 to $3.00. There’s also iced coffee for parents! Five high chairs are also available for use.

What else should you bring with you?
Make sure your kids have socks if you come to play. Also a camera is a great idea to capture memories.

Would you visit again?
I would definitely recommend Up A Creek to parents and plan on visiting again. For me a huge draw is the Wifi option, this allows me to work while my kiddos are entertained.

I also look forward to trying Kids Night Out, with the movie theater and so many restaurant choices just over the mountain, it can help make Date Night possible! Kids Only Nights are bi-weekly Friday evenings from 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM; they are $22 for first child, $15 for each additional sibling and includes games, prizes, pizza and a movie.

Other Notes: 
If you are in the GSES or Hampton Cove School district you should check out their private after school adventures. I think GSES is full, but Hampton Cove has a few more options for after school care. The kids get picked up in a van from the school and are given a snack upon arrival at Up a Creek. The counselors are available to assist with homework (mandatory 45 minutes) and then your kids are off for an afternoon of fun. This service is available from 2:30 until 6:00pm. Check their Facebook Page and website for updates and special events.

Set Sail for Family Harmony

Set Sail for Family Harmony
FEB 8, 2013

I was wrong.

For over 30 years I have traveled the world utilizing all modes of transportation yet avoiding cruise ships. Why would I pay to be confined to a floating vessel with thousands of traveling strangers? The older I get the easier it becomes to admit that I made a mistake.

Most vacations have me returning home wishing for just a few additional days for “a vacation from my vacation”. A recent escape aboard the CarnivalElation was just what my family needed to beat the winter blahs – we returned home rested and willing to patiently await the arrival of spring.

Perhaps you, too, are a cruise cynic. There is the misconception that cruises are for retired people, the non-adventurer, or people that live for the endless buffet. I beg to differ. I’m thirty six years young, have plenty of energy and zest for adventure and prefer fine dining over buffets!

Skeptics, allow me to convince you…

1. The Price

Especially off-season, is affordable. Our five-night adventure out of New Orleans to Mexico set us back only $400, not per person, TOTAL cost! Keep in mind, I am very cost conscious, we stayed in an interior room with bunk beds. Balcony rooms and ocean view will add significantly to your cost.

2. Camp Carnival!

If you’re traveling with children, this is the greatest concept ever invented. Supervised, educational, fun activities are free of charge ten hours per day. It allows them to meet other children from all over the world. Your kids are HAPPY and you are getting a true vacation to enjoy quiet time with your spouse or serenity by the pool!

Water Fun 2

3. Peaceful Meals

You want to enjoy a nice glass of wine and a well prepared, flavorful dish. The kids are whining that they can’t eat that. Your husband wants meat and potatoes. That entire ordeal is enough to ruin a vacation. A culinary genius trained in the psychiatry of eating must have been behind the scenes creating a way to please everyone! Carnival never disappointed at meal times. There were even evenings that Camp Carnival counselors hosted kid-only dinners leaving you free to enjoy a date night.

On the evenings that you choose to take the children to the dining room, it is the perfect opportunity to introduce them to etiquette (just in case they have an aversion to fine dining, a children’s menu is available). Room service is available, also free, but I do suggest you tip the waiter! There is a gigantic buffet on the Lido deck, featuring a Mongolian Wok, a Deli, a Grill and anything else you can imagine! Did I mention Ice Cream 24 hours a day?

4. Awesome Entertainment

Although Camp Carnival has the kids covered, I do suggest you spend some quality time with them on your vacation. Take time out for a game of mini golf up on the ship’s deck, enjoy a show after dinner in the Mikato Lounge, or get your dose of laughter at the family-friendly comedy hour! There is a great gym on board the ship. When was the last time you worked out overlooking the ocean? There’s a sports bar to catch the latest action for those who are anxious on vacation if they are unable to keep up with their favorite teams. Perhaps you are one who enjoys the Casino – you never know you could get lucky and even pay for your cruise!

The ship offers endless activities: spa services, trivia games, karaoke, a disco for teens as well as adults, a piano bar, poolside games, a basketball court, a walking trail, a pool with waterslide, shopping on board, wine tastings, chef dinners, behind the scenes tours…something for everyone!

So much to do!

So much to do!

5. Culture Without a Passport

Sometimes you may find yourself or your children without a passport. As long as your cruise begins and ends in the same U.S. port you are able to travel without a one. (For more information visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.)

The opportunity to see how other people live is priceless. I highly suggest doing a scavenger hunt with the kids at one of these ports. Our cruise director, Willie, provided my son with a “Mission Impossible” scavenger hunt! It was a fun idea and a great way for us to build a lasting memory together. There are boundless shore excursions available. For the novice, book them directly through Carnival or the adventurer could rent a car and explore the island. The time before last, we were with a group of 10 and rented a taxi driver for the day who took us to parts of Cozumel we may never have visited otherwise.

A cruise is one of the most restful, stress free vacations that I take with my family. If you are concerned because you are traveling with someone that has special needs, you may be interested in the info they have about guests with disabilities.

I have so much more to share from this experience, if you want to plan your first cruise or have any questions for me feel free to comment below or email me at melikanixon@live.com.