My sisters’ and I have talked for years about getting our entire family to go on a cruise. My sisters’ along with my Mom have gone on 3, maybe 4, together but have missed having our husbands’, brothers’ and kids’ along to enjoy the hilarity we often get into. Every time we attempted one brother said “NO! he would not go on a cruise!”, another brother found difficulty getting off of work, hurdles everywhere so we gave up each time we tried.
In February Mark and I decided we were going on a cruise in 2017. We decided we were doing an 8 day aboard the Carnival Magic and now it was time to pick the date we wanted to go. We had chosen June because I would be off for the summer and Mark has plenty of vacation. I wanted the 8 day that included going to Aruba so we had our date chosen since the itinerary for the Magic rotates and only does Aruba every few weeks. All the details were finally worked out and what do I do? I send a group text to the family saying “hey, Mark and I are going on a cruise and here are the details”. 2 of us going on a vacation by ourselves has now turned into 26!! Mark, myself, our three kids’, two sisters’, two brothers’, Mom, spouses, nieces, nephews, close friends of Mark and I along with friends of all the kids! We are going to have a blast and truthfully I don’t regret for a second opening our vacation up to friends’ and family!
This large of a group of course then turned into a few hurdles. Some couldn’t get off work the week we originally wanted to go – no Aruba for me. 🙁 The next hurdle was finding a location on the ship that we could get all of our cabins together. I spent 2 days doing mock bookings with everyone’s cabin request (interior or balcony) and which cabin has 2, 3 or 4 berths. After finally finding basically our own section of the ship with the correct cabin openings I then spend an hour on the phone with a Carnival PVP (Personal Vacation Planner) getting everyone assigned to a cabin. Now everyone has to go online or call the PVP to make their own deposit and confirm their booking within 24 hours and surprisingly all followed directions and got their part done!
You would think the planning was complete but nope! Out of the 26 only 9 actually live in the state of Florida. The remaining 17 of us will be traveling from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Colorado. I myself will not fly or drive and arrive the same day as the cruise departure. We have personally been affected by travel delays when flying in the day of departure and luckily had booked our flights through Carnival so they made all of the arrangements to get us to the ship on time. I have also heard all of the horror stories from the numerous cruise groups I belong to.
I immediately started a search for a hotel with cruise and park. Mark, myself, our kids and friends will be driving to Port Canaveral Florida. We have used Cruise & Park multiple times where you stay at a hotel the night before your cruise and you can leave your car in their secure lot while on the cruise. This usually is much cheaper than paying for a hotel and then also paying for your car to be parked at the cruise terminal. The hotel then provides you transportation to/from the cruise terminal and is much faster than parking yourself. Searching for a hotel 16 months before needed turned out to be a bit more difficult than I expected. Only one hotel actually responded to my request since it was so far away from the date needed. Getting a straight answer from everyone on their arrival date seems to be more difficult than the actual cruise planning.
I created a Facebook event for those going on the trip and I update the event page with excursions and any news about the Carnival Magic ship. Every once in a while I will post the countdown or an excursion that may be of interest. With so many people we will not be doing many excursions together. Mark will be diving at each port – that is the plan anyway and anyone else certified may go with him.
Mark and I chose to do the CanAm Spyder rental while visiting St Maarten and it seems that almost all 26 of us will be going on that excursion. Look out St Maarten!
My travel OCD was in full swing for the first month after booking and I started printing the luggage tags which I will laminate for everyone, started a binder for the trip which will eventually include all boarding passes and health screening forms as well as excursion info. I have since cooled off and quit thinking about it. Luckily we had a busy summer with lots of motorcycle trips and fun stuff so I had something else to plan.