We were gifted a 7 day cruise for Christmas, and it was a beautiful family vacation for my husband and I, and our 3 and 4 year olds. There were 35 of us in total in our group.
Embarkation was slightly hectic with the kids and the bags, and having to have all of the proper documentation at our fingertips. I felt a number of times that I would lose everything, but alas, I did not! I really think that Carnival did a great job, and without children, it would have been loads easier.
We did not get on the ship until about 3:00 PM, which gave us very little time to get anything accomplished before we had to go to the muster station. We really wanted to get something to eat, and go to see Camp Carnival while it was open for viewing. We barely had time to get to our room and back down to the muster station, and had to wait to get something to eat.
I liked that for young children, they were immediately given wrist bands (children under 11 I believe). These bands stated the proper muster station, and in the event of emergency, your child will be taken to the proper area to be with you. It gave a small sense of security in this huge ship!!
We had a regular interior stateroom. Although the room made fantastic use of little space, it was just very very cramped for a family of 4. We walked into the room, the bathroom was on the immediate right, closets on the left. There was a good bit of closet space. Enough that my husband and I could unload our suitcases into them. We placed the empties and the kids suitcases under the bed which was roomy. We had the mini bar opened so that we could store our sons medicine inside.
The queen bed was 2 twins pushed together, and the bunks fold out of the ceiling on each side of the bed. When the bunks are down, there is no walking on the sides of the queen bed without hitting your head!! You also can not lay in the queen bed with the bunks down and see the TV which was frustrating, because we would need to have the kids take a nap, and were left with nothing to do in the meantime.
We took the kids to Camp Carnival on the 2nd day, and the kids had a fabulous time. I was hesitant to take them, and they were hesitant to go there, but once they did, it was like magic. They had so much fun and were begging to go back!! I only saw a handful of kids the whole trip really upset that didn't want to go there. All of the kids seemed to have a really good time. The teachers taught all of the kids a dance which they performed on stage in the Encore on one of the last days. It was the most adorable thing I've ever seen!! The teachers really go out of their way to ensure the kids are happy and content, and also give a good bit of one on one time! It was very impressive. Give them a chance - I doubt you'll regret it!
After 10 PM it became babysitting time. At that time, it was like a slumber party with pillows and blankets. Most of the kids were sleeping pretty quickly, and you picked them up by 3 AM and paid for the time. ($6.00 per hour for one child, $4.00 per hour per additional child. My 2 kids was $10.00 per hour total.)
One disappointment was that other than Camp Carnival, there wasn't much to do with young kids. There was miniature golf on the top deck, but it was too windy out to enjoy that. There was a small water slide that was suitable for 5 and under, but going up the steps there was a fountain that sprayed you as you walked up, and there were ropes that other kids could pull to have water dumped on your head as you walked under... those are things that my children didn't like a bit as they don't like to get their face wet, so it took away from the fun for them. But, they still had a blast. The racer slide was for 42" and up, and my 4 year old was tall enough. She wiped out her first time down though as fast as she went!! Be careful if you let your little ones try!
Other than the golf, water slides, and pool (it wasn't really warm enough on our trip for the pool and slides, we just used them 2 days), and hot tubs, there wasn't much of a play area unless you took them to camp. It was too cooped up in the room for any free play time, and there wasn't much space anywhere else to do so either. I'd have loved to have seen a climbing structure or just an open play area that allowed parents to join in. Would have given us the ability to get the kids away from everyone else on the ship during times when they were less than "proper"!
The crew all went above and beyond to accommodate the kids. Seeing as it's a family cruise ship, I did expect that to be the case, but I was impressed with their kindness and help. Other guests, however, were another story. My children were extremely well behaved on this trip, and when they were not, it was up to the room we went. People were often very rude to us and treated my children as if they were my pet who was in their way "Could you please move your child out of my way so I can reach a milk before we move up 3 more steps" instead of realizing that they are small people who have every right to be in line at the buffet with me and are not "IN THE WAY" in doing so! However, it didn't ruin it for me. Nor did the 100's of people pushing and shoving their way to get on a 55 seater bus while my 40 pound son slept on my shoulder, and I kindly waited for the next bus even though my arms were aching badly... No problem though. I understand that my sleeping child is not a concern of theirs, I just would have appreciated the kindness of not having him shoved all around while you are trying to go around me to secure your own seat on the bus. Sorry, tangent there. (This was after the Jungle Beach break in Costa Maya!!)
All in all, we had a beautiful vacation, and since I had a hard time finding reviews about childrens activities, I thought I'd now add my own!