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Carnival Celebration July 2024 Family Cruise (Pre-Cruise Planning & Post Review)


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I have trolled for the last year and wanted to start a trip report, but felt like it is just to soon.  After all, we do not cruise until the end of July 2024.  However, as I am still planning and needing advise, I decided to get started and maybe get some advise along the journey.

 

I will start today with some of the preliminary details about out cruise . . .

  • We are on the Carnival Celebration on a 7 Days Eastern Caribbean from Miami, FL (July 21-28, 2024)
  • Room #1 - Cove Balcony (Room # 5305) -- Me, wife and daughter will share.
  • Room #2 - Inside Cabin (Room #5308) -- Two teenage sons will share
  • Sailing out of Miami with stops in Grand Turk, Amber Cove/DR, & Nassau

 

Other info about our trip . . . 

#1 - This is the real reason that we are cruising --- We will be on the ship for our 25 wedding anniversary. My wife and I have taken a big anniversary trip every 5-years all by ourselves, but this year we decided to bring the whole family with us to celebrate.  We will actually be on she ship for our anniversary, on July 24.

 

#2 - Our oldest son graduated from high school last night, and will be off to college at the University of Central Arkansas in a few months.  So in a way, this is also a celebration of his accomplishment as well.  He graduated with high honors and we are pretty proud.

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We will be traveling with other family & friends on this cruise as well, and for some of them this will be their very frit cruise.  I am excited.  My family cruised first on Carnival Triumph about 10 years ago, the last spring break it was called the Triumph.  I am not sure what it is call now.  Then my wife and I spent a week on the RC Allure for our 20th Anniversary, so we are not exactly "experienced," but we are excited.  

 

I will come back and add to this planning blog and I know I will have lots of questions.  I hope some of you will come along with us and offer advice.

 

To be continued . . .

 

 

 

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22 hours ago, tha sista said:

Congrats on both occasions!

Thank you so much.

 

20 hours ago, mamiamjo said:

Congratulations! You have lots to celebrate! I’m sure you’ll have a great cruise and create lots of memories with your family 😎

We do, ad I am excited to make those memories.

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Our next issue, not really, came with figuring out how to get to Miami. We live in Northeast Arkansas, so the travel time will certainly be substantial.  The obvious choice would be to fly out of Memphis, TN, which is about 1 hour away.  However, I quickly discovered how expensive that would be.

 

So this is where I need some advice, as I am making final decisions this weekend.  I would love your thoughts.  Regardless of choice, there will 1-2 night hotel before and after the cruise.

 

1.  DRIVE - 16 hours.  So we would leave a couple nights before, but would cost less than 400 round trip.  However, there would be parking at the port.

 

2.  FLY Southwest - Would still have couple day of hotel to get best rates.  Flight cost about $1700.

 

3. FLY Allegiant - Would still have hotel because of flight schedule, but would cost only $700.  We would of course have transportation cost in Miami.

 

What are your honest thoughts and opinions.  We did fly Allegiant once, and as were never fly it was okay for us.  But have heard some have not had great experiences.  

 

To be continued . . .

 

 

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Check out rates to Lauderdale.  You can get shuttles at airport to Port Miami for about $25pp on a big shared bus (like a Greyhound bus).  

 

We are flying into FLL in July for a cruise out of Miami.  we have done this many times.  We vastly prefer direct flights morning of cruise or to arrive the day before and just chill at a hotel in south florida.   

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1 hour ago, havanadaydreaming said:

i must admit i like Frontier but dislike Allegiant.  To the point i wont fly them UNLESS its an absolute necessity.  

 

that said, they have upgraded their planes since my "ban" and that would probably eliminate my concerns.  their old machines were substandard at best.  

 

That's funny, because I'm just the opposite! We've only had positive experiences with Allegiant, but horrible trips with Frontier. I'm sure much depends on where you're flying to and from.🙂

 

I will echo the advice to check flights into FLL, as opposed to Miami. It's always cheaper for us!

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I would always rather drive than fly just for the dealing with the airport factor, but the 16 hour drive time would definitely have me thinking. It basically becomes a two week trip for a 8 day cruise. 

 

So it would depend on vacation time available and if there were any fun things to stop and see along the way to break up the drive.

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There are some off-site parking areas.  Also, there are some hotels in Miami that offer “Stay and Cruise” rates, and I found a lot of them reasonable.  I don’t know if I can post a link here to the site I found the info; just do a google search for “Miami hotels that offer cruise parking” and it should pop-up.

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17 hours ago, PrincessPatti said:

There are some off-site parking areas.  Also, there are some hotels in Miami that offer “Stay and Cruise” rates, and I found a lot of them reasonable.  I don’t know if I can post a link here to the site I found the info; just do a google search for “Miami hotels that offer cruise parking” and it should pop-up.

I did not know about this option.  Have you found their parting to be secure?  Is it still less expensive when you factor in a shuttle to and from the port?  I am interested.

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21 hours ago, havanadaydreaming said:

Check out rates to Lauderdale.  You can get shuttles at airport to Port Miami for about $25pp on a big shared bus (like a Greyhound bus).  

 

We are flying into FLL in July for a cruise out of Miami.  we have done this many times.  We vastly prefer direct flights morning of cruise or to arrive the day before and just chill at a hotel in south florida.   

 

If I am not mistaken the Allegiant flight was in to FLL, but I will check.  

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21 hours ago, havanadaydreaming said:

i must admit i like Frontier but dislike Allegiant.  To the point i wont fly them UNLESS its an absolute necessity.  

 

that said, they have upgraded their planes since my "ban" and that would probably eliminate my concerns.  their old machines were substandard at best.  

 

 

20 hours ago, pcvtmom said:

That's funny, because I'm just the opposite! We've only had positive experiences with Allegiant, but horrible trips with Frontier. I'm sure much depends on where you're flying to and from.🙂

 

I will echo the advice to check flights into FLL, as opposed to Miami. It's always cheaper for us!

 

We have flown on both.  Allegiant to Orlando 20 years ago, one one frontier to Phoenix 15 years ago.  Both experiences were "okay" i would say.  As it has been so long, I am interested in more recent experiences.  

 

Frontier, oddly enough has flights to Miami area, but it does not show any seats available on the returning flights.  So I do not think Frontier will be an option, but I may check back.

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3 minutes ago, hawkinsh said:

I did not know about this option.  Have you found their parting to be secure?  Is it still less expensive when you factor in a shuttle to and from the port?  I am interested.

I have only parked at the Port when I lived in South Florida, so I wouldn’t know.  I have read that the off-site parking is secure, but I don’t have first hand knowledge.  I think, but I am not 100% sure that they offer a shuttle if you park in their lot.

 

As for the hotel parking option, you are parking in their lot, which is generally open air.  Some have gated parking and you need to buzz to get in.  Some of them also offer shuttles to the port.

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17 hours ago, mikayla73 said:

I would always rather drive than fly just for the dealing with the airport factor, but the 16 hour drive time would definitely have me thinking. It basically becomes a two week trip for a 8 day cruise. 

 

So it would depend on vacation time available and if there were any fun things to stop and see along the way to break up the drive.

 

The time is not the biggest factor.  I am a school teacher and a pastor.  School doesn't start from a couple weeks after, and as long as I am back by Wednesday night, I will be fin at church.  It is more of a balancing the $$ or travel.  I want to do things the most affordable way I am able.  With 5 in our travel part, $50 becomes $250 instantly, so it add up fast.

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21 hours ago, havanadaydreaming said:

Check out rates to Lauderdale.  You can get shuttles at airport to Port Miami for about $25pp on a big shared bus (like a Greyhound bus).  

 

We are flying into FLL in July for a cruise out of Miami.  we have done this many times.  We vastly prefer direct flights morning of cruise or to arrive the day before and just chill at a hotel in south florida.   

 

I think the flights are into FLL, but I could be wrong.  I am concerned about "day of" flights.  Too many factors at play, but I will look for hotels that do provide a shuttle to the hotel, we we do decide to go this route.

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As someone else mentioned, you can check into stay and cruise options at hotels.

 

If you end up driving, we have driven from middle GA to Miami. We left the day before and stopped to stay in Port St. Lucie, FL, that was ~8hrs of driving. Then we finished the drive (~2 hours) the morning of embarkation. We parked at the port because it's convenient, though traffic can be crazy. It was way cheaper to not stay in Miami, so you might take that into consideration too for driving. Though you're not going to get a park and cruise option that way.

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On 5/16/2024 at 9:22 AM, hawkinsh said:

I did not know about this option.  Have you found their parting to be secure?  Is it still less expensive when you factor in a shuttle to and from the port?  I am interested.

 

We live in SWFL so we drive in day of most cruises. Even if you come in earlier and stay at a hotel you can park at offsite cruise parking the morning of. We have personally used Premier Parking close to the port. Its a parking garage and they have an included shuttle to the port. You reserve online and I can usually find a coupon code.

 

If you come in 1-2 days early check out Groupon for Miami based activities for the family such as an Everglades boat tour, or a guided Star Island boat tour etc. Of course South Beach is a must see as well. 

 

Our friends fly Allegiant from Michigan to FL frequently and they have nothing but good things to say about them. I say its worth the money savings if you decide to fly. 

 

 

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@hawkinsh Some advice from an experienced cruiser (20) and frequent flyer- with many trips to FL. 
When considering Allegiant and Southwest- consider baggage allowance. I know SWA allows two checked bags, one carryon and a personal item (tote,purse etc) per person. Not sure about Allegiant,but baggage fees can add up.

If possible, look into on time records for each airline.

Do not attempt to fly into Miami on the day of the cruise- too risky !

SWA does not have many direct flights anymore,perhaps Allegiant has direct flights.

We always try to choose direct flights to limit travel glitches. Also something to look into.

I would compare all the costs of flying and driving and chose the transport that you are comfortable with. 
No matter which way you choose to get to the port, there will be additional costs in getting there. Only you can decide on the most financially advantageous transport .

In choosing a FL hotel, look for one that offers complimentary  parking with a stay. We have done that numerous times when taking cruises from Fort Lauderdale. The lots were open,without garage parking, but we never had a problem with the parking. We have done that at  a hotel near JFK in NY and did not have any issues. 
Wishing you good luck with your planning. The cruise is in the later part of July, but I think you should have your travel reservations in place soon. My DH and I plan far ahead when traveling, but that’s the way we roll !

MJ👩🏻

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Years ago wife and I did an 8 day cruise for our anniversary out of Miami over July 4th and drove down from NC. Cruise sailed on a Saturday and we decided to leave around 8-9 pm Thursday and drive through the night to avoid traffic, especially because there were races at Daytona Friday and Saturday. We booked a hotel room in Port St. Lucie for Thursday night and Friday night even though we wouldn't be getting there until 5-6 am just to ensure we had a room ready for us to crash in whenever we got there. Just let the hotel know you will be checking in very late so they don't think you're a no show and cancel your booking. We took turns driving and napping and overall it wasn't a bad drive. Got to the hotel a bit after 6 am checked in and slept until about noon, then got up and went to grab some food, a couple things from the store we forgot to pack and caught a movie later that afternoon. Had a pizza delivered for dinner and went to bed early around 9 pm. Got up the next morning about 7 and checked out, on the road before 8 for the ~2 hour drive to Miami. Traffic was heavy but not bad until getting close to Miami but we didn't hit any major snags and were at the port before our check in time which I think was 11 am. We just parked at the port, yes, it's more expensive than some of the offsite lots but for we felt the security was worth it. I've seen enough accounts of people using cheap parking to save $50-60 only to come back and find that savings erased from having their car broken into. If I were to drive to a cruise from Miami I would seriously consider doing it this way again.

 

Coming home for some reason we thought it would be a good idea to make it all the way to around Savannah before stopping at a hotel, I think we thought we might do some things there on the way home. After doing it, I would NOT plan to drive that far after getting off the ship again, we were tired and traffic was not fun. Of course it might have been better had we not stayed up until 2 am the last night and gotten 5 hours of sleep LOL. Depending on how tired you think you will be getting off the ship you may not want to drive for more than 2-3 hours tops. Now with internet working better on phones while on the road I probably wouldn't even book a hotel on the way home ahead of time, just start driving and find one when we start getting tired of driving.

 

Our drive was roughly 780 miles and 11 hours total for reference so not quite as long as what you would have. Anyway this was our experience driving to and from Miami, it was definitely cheaper than flying and overall not bad. The drive down was definitely better and easier than the return with how we did it. If we were to do this drive again I would be fine doing the same thing going down but would definitely change how we do the return portion.

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On 5/18/2024 at 11:43 AM, nc762shooter said:

Years ago wife and I did an 8 day cruise for our anniversary out of Miami over July 4th and drove down from NC. Cruise sailed on a Saturday and we decided to leave around 8-9 pm Thursday and drive through the night to avoid traffic, especially because there were races at Daytona Friday and Saturday. We booked a hotel room in Port St. Lucie for Thursday night and Friday night even though we wouldn't be getting there until 5-6 am just to ensure we had a room ready for us to crash in whenever we got there. Just let the hotel know you will be checking in very late so they don't think you're a no show and cancel your booking. We took turns driving and napping and overall it wasn't a bad drive. Got to the hotel a bit after 6 am checked in and slept until about noon, then got up and went to grab some food, a couple things from the store we forgot to pack and caught a movie later that afternoon. Had a pizza delivered for dinner and went to bed early around 9 pm. Got up the next morning about 7 and checked out, on the road before 8 for the ~2 hour drive to Miami. Traffic was heavy but not bad until getting close to Miami but we didn't hit any major snags and were at the port before our check in time which I think was 11 am. We just parked at the port, yes, it's more expensive than some of the offsite lots but for we felt the security was worth it. I've seen enough accounts of people using cheap parking to save $50-60 only to come back and find that savings erased from having their car broken into. If I were to drive to a cruise from Miami I would seriously consider doing it this way again.

 

Coming home for some reason we thought it would be a good idea to make it all the way to around Savannah before stopping at a hotel, I think we thought we might do some things there on the way home. After doing it, I would NOT plan to drive that far after getting off the ship again, we were tired and traffic was not fun. Of course it might have been better had we not stayed up until 2 am the last night and gotten 5 hours of sleep LOL. Depending on how tired you think you will be getting off the ship you may not want to drive for more than 2-3 hours tops. Now with internet working better on phones while on the road I probably wouldn't even book a hotel on the way home ahead of time, just start driving and find one when we start getting tired of driving.

 

Our drive was roughly 780 miles and 11 hours total for reference so not quite as long as what you would have. Anyway this was our experience driving to and from Miami, it was definitely cheaper than flying and overall not bad. The drive down was definitely better and easier than the return with how we did it. If we were to do this drive again I would be fine doing the same thing going down but would definitely change how we do the return portion.

This is really good info, and a lot to take in.  I still think we are leaning to the drive.  Means more fun on the the ship and in ports.  Maybe even an adventure along the way to the ship.

 

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3 hours ago, hawkinsh said:

This is really good info, and a lot to take in.  I still think we are leaning to the drive.  Means more fun on the the ship and in ports.  Maybe even an adventure along the way to the ship.

 

Some other factors to consider for driving:

 

Depending on your vehicle you may not need to worry as much or at all about luggage capacity like you would if flying (also no risk of the airline losing someone's bag). It's also helpful for everyone to pack a small bag with the necessities for any overnight stays on the road so you aren't having to dig through the rest of the packed luggage or load/unload everything multiple times. It definitely streamlines checking in and out of hotels and the less you have to wrestle with luggage in the Southeast in July the happier you will be, or at least I am LOL.

 

If you want to minimize the amount of time stopped you can pack a cooler or bag with drinks/snacks that are easy and filling to eat while on the road. Buying this stuff at home will save you some money and time vs getting everything on the road from vending machines or gas stations or making a dedicated food stop. Save your money and time for a leisurely meal after you've stopped traveling for the day. 

 

How many in the vehicle could help with the driving/are comfortable doing so? Also, how comfortable will all passengers be and is it feasible for anyone sharing the driving to take a decent nap? This will be important if you are wanting to drive through the night any or for longer stretches at a time taking shifts. 

 

Another thing I like about parking at the port is once you get off the ship you can take your luggage straight to your car and get on the road without having to wait on a shuttle, deal with all your luggage on said shuttle, and then have however long a ride before you have to grab everything and load your vehicle. You would probably be looking at a bare minimum of 30 extra minutes to get to your car if you don't park at the port, most likely longer. Again, it will be July and the less I have to stand around in the heat or handle luggage the better.🤣

 

I would also recommend not staying more than a couple hours from the port the night before if you can to make sure everyone feels as fresh as possible for the first day onboard without feeling rushed or stressed to get there on time. 

 

As for the return leg, you will get off the ship Sunday morning and have until Wednesday evening to get back so you have plenty of time to make that drive. Everyone will probably be more tired than on the way down and lacking the energy from the pre-cruise excitement so I would plan to be flexible about how far you drive before stopping. It may be worth considering only going 3-4 hours from the port and then finding a place to stay, maybe with some touristy things you want to do. You wouldn't be too far from Orlando or Cape Canaveral at that point. 

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We live 4 hours from Miami. Might consider the flight to FLL, saves $.

There are hotels just outside of Miami that are cheaper and very close. This includes a casino hotel that was very nice. 

 

If cost is key, I would drive it as mentioned above. Rotate the drivers and save the plane rides. In many cases, there are place changes. It almost takes as long to fly as drive. We just came back from cruise and had plane changes. One flight delay and we were in airports and on the plane for 17 hours. 

 

It really comes down to personal preference. 

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