Monday, September 25, 2017

Cruising with little kids: Our story

Two years ago we planned to go on a cruise. After a couple of years of saving and planning, we booked to sail in late summer of 2016. But then I got pregnant with our youngest and we had to delay sailing until I give birth. We re-booked for late summer 2017 and we finally sailed last week with Costa Pacifica, with two little kids instead of one.

The ship departs from Savona, Italy, 800km from Zagreb, where we live. With the toddler and the baby, we knew it would probably be the drive from hell, so we decided to drive during the night, when both of them are asleep. We left home at 3am on Wednesday, and got to the port of Savona only at 1pm with five breaks from driving. Someone was hungry, someone needed the restroom, someone was crying, and all that.

The deck where we spend most of our time
At the port we were welcomed with valet parking, handed them the car key and our suitcases. We walked toward the terminal and were given priority boarding (yay!) and walked directly into the ship. Tons of crew welcomed us warmly, and they're all obsessed with small children. Each of us (including the baby and the toddler) was given the Costa card which served as a key to the cabin, an ID card to embark and disembark the ship, and the mean for payment while on board. We were directed to our cabin on deck 2, and our suitcases were waiting for us in front of the door. Mind you, we paid for the cheapest cabin available in the ship, and that means that our cabin was at the inside of the ship with no sea-view (my husband said we're like rats). We didn't mind that we have no window because we'd just sleep in the cabin, most of the time we'd be actually somewhere outside the cabin, mostly on the outdoor deck. At only €300 per person all inclusive (kids don't pay!), we basically had the exact same access and facilities with the ones paying over €1,000 to get windows with sea-view or private balcony. So we said, screw the window. (I'll write a different post on tips and trick for cruising on low budget).

We went straight to the restaurant for lunch (the cruise price covers all the meals -no additional cost) and started to explore the ship. Deck 11 was our favorite, with the Jacuzzi, a pool and water slide. A thematic kids pool is located nearby, so we spent the afternoon on this deck.

Our favorite deck 11
Our toddler at the Peppa Pig kids pool
An emergency drill was obligatory before departure so we participated in it, to learn the procedures we'd need to take on the events of emergency. The ship was set to sail and leave the port at 5pm, with Andrea Bocelli's "Con Te Partiro" played out loud (the song is played every time we leave a port). We soon went to dinner to the same restaurant we went for lunch. All passengers could choose between a formal three-courses sitting dinner or informal self-service dinner, and because of the kids, we opted for informal dinner for the entire cruise.

The baby was extra sleepy the entire dinner and I knew she wasn't herself. I had a feeling she was getting ill, so I chose to get back to the cabin with her after dinner, while the toddler and my husband went to see the show at the theater. During the whole night the baby's temperature's rising, and we had to managed it with paracetamol, which, thank goodness I had with me.

We woke up to the sound and feeling of shaking of the ship being moored at the port of Marseilles at around 8am. I've got to tell you that as much as some people hate the swaying of the ship, and get sea-sickness of it, I kind of loved the feeling my bed being rocked all night long :D

We didn't want to spend too much money on excursion packages offered by the cruise, so we decided to only take their shuttle, which cost €11 per person round-trip per person. We got off the ship after breakfast to take their shuttle, only to find out that the cruise port of Marseilles actually provided a free shuttle (yup, we just lost €33 to three tickets) for cruise passengers to get to the city! Putting that aside, we had fun in Marseilles. We walked from the main cathedral along the narrow alleys of the historic part of the city and ended up at the old port. Both my husband and I love Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo so the old port of Marseille is quite special for us.

View to the old port of Marseille
I knew the baby was ill because she was sleeping a lot. I had her in the ring sling so she was sleeping on me the entire time we were walking around. We decided to take the bus to the ship at around 3pm, so we had lunch on board. We went back to the cabin to rest and we found an invitation in our mailbox for the toddler. Peppa Pig invited her to hang out at the indoor pool on deck 9 at 8pm. The baby was hot again so we had to give her medicine. We were thinking to take her to the on-board doctor but I was pretty sure it was common cold so we waited for another day.

With the invitation, I also received a notice for myself. It said that I didn't have the visa and/or resident permit in the European Union (EU) so I need to come to the reception at deck 3 as soon as possible. I knew it was a confusion because I'm a citizen of the EU, why would I need a visa? After waiting in line for half-an-hour, I got to the counter and showed my Croatian passport (which I also used for checking into the ship). The officer apologized for the mistake and let me go with my passport. Someone must have overheard when I said to a crew that I'm from Indonesia and they confused my heritage with my citizenship. 

After dinner we went to see Peppa. It was a little early so we decided to check the play room on deck 10. Then the baby needed a diaper change so I took her back to our cabin. She nursed afterwards and fell asleep, so I transferred her to the ring sling and went back to deck 10. When I arrived there, Peppa was already there and lots of kids were around her. I found my husband and he was pale "Oh my gosh I lost her. I mean, I found her now, but I freaking lost her" he told me. So when I left, they were in the play room on deck 10. My husband then realized that it was time and they needed to go to deck 9 for Peppa. They both started walking when my husband realized that he left his cellphone in the playroom, so he told the toddler to wait right there while he take the cellphone. When he was back, of course, the toddler was gone. She was nowhere to be found. He started to look for her on the whole deck and scream her name. He panicked and started to ask random people if they see a little girl by herself. Having asked more than five people, he decided (probably sweating like a pig) to get down to deck 9. There was Peppa there, and, you guessed it, our toddler dancing to the music. He ran to her and asked here (probably screamed) "where have you been???" to which she calmly (and still dancing) answered "well, here. Why?". So, yes, she actually went down from deck 10 to deck 9, by stairs, by herself, got to the other side of the pool because she saw freaking huge Peppa there. So the thing is, each child got a bracelet when we embarked, which has to be worn by every child, on which her name and her cabin room are written, and it's the festival-kind-of bracelet that a child can't get rid of. And what happened? We actually lost her bracelet. Yes. We're probably the worst parents on earth.

The toddler is the little girl with the hand holding Peppa's hand
The night went better than the previous one. We needed to give one paracetamol to the baby, but she woke up like new in the morning. No more fever, and she was back to her ultra-active self. We were due to arrive in Ibiza only at 2pm, so we spent the morning in the library, at the pool and at the gift shop. We played it smarter this time so we didn't buy the shuttle to Ibiza from the cruise. We disembarked the ship after lunch with no plan, and immediately found a public bus that took us from the cruise port to the city for only €4 round-trip (compared to €12 that the ship offered).

We had a summer holiday this year, so we didn't plan to go to the beach. We headed to the heart of the city and learned that Ibiza (or Elvissa) was the center of European hippie community long before it was now famous for the party people. We had rounds of drinks, walked around and enjoyed the view of the iconic white houses of Ibiza, and took the bus to get back to the ship at around 6pm.

Strolling around in Ibiza
At the cabin we found out that the toddler got another invitation from Peppa for treasure hunting at the discotheque at 8pm, so we headed for dinner, to the deck for the sunset while we were sailing away from Ibiza to Barcelona, then to the discotheque. All kids were dressed and face-painted as little pirates and they played treasure hunt.

The toddler on the open deck while the ship leaving Ibiza during sunset
Peppa-Pirates disco night, it was super fun!
The toddler and my husband went to the theater again after Peppa, and I got back to sleep with the baby to the cabin. We were scheduled to be moored in Barcelona the next day at 9am. The sea was quite rough (they notified us about that) so I was rocked to sleep like a baby.

The next day we woke up in Barcelona port. We headed out after breakfast, not buying the official shuttle of course. We found a public bus that took us to the city and back for €5, and left us at the end of the famous Las Ramblas by the port. We didn't have much time because the ship should sail by 2pm already, so we strolled on Las Ramblas and took a metro to Sagrada Familia. There was a nice children playground right in front of the basilica, which reminds me of the children playground right in front of the Parisian Sacred Heart basilica in which the toddler also played last year. We let the kids spend some time playing and walked to the back of the church and rested in Gaudi square.

The toddler and my husband at the Rambla de Santa Monica, one part of the Las Ramblas
Due to the limited time we didn't get into it, but we enjoyed the view while the kids resting
Once we were back on the ship, we went to the late Spanish lunch that the cruise offered, we had paella, and churros for dessert. At 5pm we were invited to the cocktail party with the Captain in the theater so we dressed up and headed there. They took a family picture of us and later gave it to us for a free souvenir. We toasted with the captain and and headed to the open deck to the pool. By this time we're already sailing back to Savona. We spent the evening in the play room (no more Peppa Pig today!) then the toddler and her dad headed to the theater.

We had to pack and leave our suitcases with special tags in front of our cabin door by midnight, because they will be delivered to us together with our car in Savona. In the morning we had to leave the cabin by 8am, although we can stay in the ship longer if we want. We disembarked after breakfast, at 10am, directly to the valet service that handed us the key of the car and the suitcases that were waiting for us there.

Some people made comments on their way out how the cruise was too short, and we couldn't agree more. It was such a different, special experience to be cruising in the ship. The toddler enjoyed it very much. Of course the baby is too small to even understand anything, but she had a good time despite her being ill the first two days. We all did. If we save up enough, we might sail again in a few years! I'll be posting soon about tips and tricks on cruising on low budget!


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