Get Close to Nature
Carnival Dream's 7-day Western Caribbean Cruise
This new Carnival "Fun Ship" is not only affordable, it's larger and has more space dedicated to families than any other in its fleet. Yes, the ship is big, but the friendly staff is all about the small details: Each night, your child returns to the room to find a towel shaped, origami-style, into a swan, a monkey, a pig, or another cute creature.
Fun for First Mates: The Camp Carnival kids' clubs (ages 2 to 11) are focused on making memories -- and souvenirs. Sessions teach art, music, and all about the ports you'll visit on the trip, plus children can design their own custom T-shirts and plush toys. Over in the WaterWorks area, your kid can spend the day at one of the most elaborate (and largest) aqua parks at sea, which includes a four-deck-high twister water slide, squirting fountains, and splash zones.
Cruise Care: There is no in-room babysitting service available, but kids can be dropped off nightly between 10 P.M. and 3 A.M. for group care at the Camp Carnival center (cribs are available; $4 to $6 per hour).
Ocean Eats: The steak house or sushi bar might be calling your name (the main dining rooms offer extensive children's menus), but kids will get a kick out of The Gathering, a poolside restaurant that serves pizza and ice cream 'round the clock. The whole family will love the "Dining Under the Stars" program that lets kids (2 to 17) eat together with the camp counselors while you and your partner have a romantic dinner for two.
Port Report: The Carnival Dream ups the number of stops to four, including two in Mexico (Cozumel and Costa Maya). But the ports get more exotic from there, with a shore excursion to Isla Roatan (off Honduras) and another in Belize. Little nature lovers will dig all the animal encounters in Isla Roatan, from swimming with dolphins to spotting local wildlife: parrots, monkeys, and Jesus lizards (they "walk" on water). In Belize, you and the kids can explore the ancient ruins and jungle by guided boat, horseback, bike, or foot tours.
Rates: Start at $649 per person for 7 days in a standard room. Suites and a deluxe family stateroom are also available.