Family Field Trips, Homeschool, Vacation

Family Field Trip: Cruise to Dominican Republic, Half Moon Cay, & Grand Turk

Hey Wanderers!

        One of the best things about homeschooling is getting to take trips during the school year when every one else is in school!  One of our favorite family field trips was back in September 2016.  We took a cruise to Amber Cove, Dominican Republic, Half Moon Cay (Carnival’s private island), and Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos.  We sailed on the Carnival Conquest.  This was our 3rd cruise as a family and the first since we had started homeschooling, so I couldn’t pass up the educational opportunity of having the kids learn about the countries we were going to.  I learned a little myself in the process!

After we booked our cruise, I immediately scoured the treasure trove of TeachersPayTeachers.com looking for Caribbean Unit studies, specifically focusing on the islands we would be visiting.  I happened upon this little gem by Jill Russ:

IT WAS PERFECT!!  You can find it here or click on the picture.

I also downloaded the texts with questions and quizzes that go with it: here & here.

The kids had a great time learning about our Caribbean islands for the 2 weeks prior to our embarkment.  We studied the countries currency, geography, culture, heritage, weather, landmarks, etc.  We read a section a day and did the corresponding questions and lapbook piece.  We even mapped out our trip’s route on the map so the kids could have a sense of where we’d be traveling in relation to the other islands.    Here are some examples of my son’s completed lapbook:

   

Before we started our unit study, I started thinking of ideas for a final project the kids to do to round out what they learned and apply it to our trip.  As always, Pinterest struck INSPIRATION!  While scrolling cruise ideas on Pinterest, I found where some people have started bringing objects to decorate the doors of their cabins with cute magnetic signs and trinkets.  I thought to myself, how awesome would it be for the kids to decorate our cabin door with the things they learned about before our trip!  (Insert Happy Mommy Nerdy Dance!!) So for their final project, they had to write/type a report about the countries we’d be visiting plus add flags and other decorations.  We laminated it all and I hot glued magnets to the back of them, because I read somewhere that the cabin doors were magnetic and you were not allowed to use tape to keep things on the doors.  I was so excited to get to the cruise for this reason alone.  I couldn’t wait to have the kids decorate our door, have people see it and ask the kids questions about what they learned, and the kids be able to educate others on the awesome places we were headed!  (Hey, a homeschooling momma can dream right?!  Lol!)  Well, of course, things don’t ever go as planned.  Welcome to my world.  The doors weren’t magnetic.  (Total bummer)  However, we figured out that the walls were!!  So the kids were able to decorate the walls instead, which turned out to be a better idea.  In the long run, I would’ve been super upset if some kid had taken my kids’ work off our door as a joke.  The kids did get praise and questions from the crew assigned to our cabin so it worked out in the end.  Here are pics of the kids proudly showing off their work in our cabin.  They loved this!

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR TRIP

Half Moon Cay

Our first stop was to Carnival’s private island of Half Moon Cay.  It was by far our FAVORITE stop of the entire cruise!  The weather was very cooperative.  We had to board a ferry from the boat to take us to the island.  Once on the island, we hopped on a shuttle to take us to our private cabana we rented for the day.  If you ever have the opportunity to go to this island, Carnival lists “Cabana Rental” as a shore excursion.  DO IT!!  It is worth EVERY PENNY!  I believe we ended up paying a little over $300 for the day, but it included: an air conditioned cabana, a tray of snacks and drinks that were periodically refilled during the day, lounge chairs to lay out on, float mats to use in the ocean, snorkel equipment, a refrigerator, and a hammock.  If you are a family with small children who will be in need of a place to take a nap during the day, this is money well spent.  The beach in front of our cabana was breathtaking.  We could see our ship in the background.  It was post card worthy!

  

  

Day at Sea

On our first day at sea, we arranged to take the kids to the Dr. Suess Cat in the Hat Breakfast.  It is an extra charge, but so precious if you have little ones.  Our oldest son was 11 and was not feeling it, but we made him go anyways.  Haha!  Earlier in the year, I had Thing 1, 2, and 3 shirts made for the kids for our trip to Universal Orlando.  I made sure to bring them along for the Dr. Suess Breakfast, because the Southern Momma in me couldn’t resist the photo op.  The teacher in me loved the breakfast and did a mental SQUUEEEEAL at every cute decoration, coordinated food, and activity.  Fair warning: Some of the items on the menu are not very palatable.  They may sound great to your sugar-addicted child, but in reality it’s gross and they will eat what you order.  (I’m looking at you Fruit-Loop-Encrusted French Toast)

    

   

    

After breakfast, we explored the rest of the ship.  We made our way to an upper deck with over-sized, outdoor games such as chess and corn hole.

Wandering Momma Tip: If you have an older child who feels like they are too old to do the “kiddie stuff” with the younger siblings, find activities for them that are age appropriate, then divide and conquer during “kiddie stuff.”

Later in the day, I took the younger 2 kiddos to the Kids Club to participate in Carnival’s version of Build-A-Bear.  This is also an extra expense so plan accordingly.  I believe each animal (with an extra set of clothes) came to about $30 a piece if my memory is correct. (Which is a toss up, because Mommy Brain is a real thing  :/)  While we were in the Kids Club, my husband took our oldest to play chess and then to the Arcade.  Everyone had a great couple of hours.

     

 

  

Later, we met up in the ship’s Theater to watch the Dr. Suess show.  It’s kind of like a game show for kids.  The kids enjoyed it, despite the look on my youngest’s face.  And my daughter actually got called up on stage!

  

Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic was one of the kids’ favorite countries that we studied.  Many tourists on the cruise ships book shore excursions to tour the islands before exiting the ship.  We learned years ago that is not the most cost-effective, informational, or fun way of getting the most out of your trip.  The destinations that have cruise ship tourism THRIVE off of the business that comes off the ship.  There are always plenty of taxis and tour guides waiting for you right off the ship.  Usually, these people are much more knowledgeable about the area and you receive a much more personable tour instead of being herded into a group like cattle.  Also, you usually spend at least half of what they charge on the ship for the same shore excursion.  Our guide was really impressed with the knowledge the kids had about the island and the questions they had about different monuments and landmarks in the area.  He seemed to be excited to show us so much more because the kids had actually studied it before we came.  We asked our guide to take us to a place for lunch that was a favorite of the locals.  He did not disappoint!  It was definitely not something many, if any, of the other guests on the ship were taken to.  We basically had the place to ourselves with the exception of some locals.  My family and I got to experience a new food we definitely wouldn’t have had back home… Stewed Goat.  It was… different.  My husband loved it and ate it all.  I tried a bite to taste it.  It wasn’t bad, but I preferred my own meal of rice, beans, and sausage.  The food and the restaurant served as a great conversation starter about how most other countries don’t offer over-sized meals, lots of ice in drinks, and free refills.

Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos

Our last stop was on the island of Grand Turk.  It is only 7 miles long and you can pretty much see all of it as soon as you step off the boat.  We paid a taxi to take us on a tour of the island.  One of the first stops was the John Glenn Exhibit and a replica of the Friendship 7 capsule that landed a few miles off of Grand Turk.  Our next stop was the Lighthouse, but unfortunately it was closed for maintenance.  We did get to see some friendly (and some not-so-friendly) locals of the 4-legged variety.  Wild donkeys roam the entire island.  They’re kind of like pets to all the people who live there.  The donkeys come to be loved on, eat whatever you may have, then go on their merry way.  Ha!  After stopping by the market to shop and try a little juice straight from a coconut, we drove by some of the historic homes on the island.  We ended up back at the cruise ship pier for lunch.  We dined at the Margaritaville restaurant, which was fabulous!  We consider ourselves true parrotheads and looked forward to visiting the establishment.  We could have spent all day there!  Besides the amazing food, they have huge pools, music, and volleyball courts to entertain guests.  They are also located right on the beach so you can take your Cheeseburger in Paradise and go eat right on the beach while the kids swim.  Fins Up!

  

 

  

All in all, we had a FANTASTIC trip!  The kids still talk about the adventure we had and the information they learned from the tour guides.  If you and your family ever plan to take a Family Field Trip cruise, I hope these tips will help you to get the most out of your trip!

Wandering Momma Tips:

*Don’t bother paying for shore excursions on the boat.  You will get the exact same tour (if not better) if you walk off the ship and ask someone to take you where you want to go.

*If you choose to rent a Cabana for a day on the private island, book it AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!  We seriously booked it 6 months in advance.  Also, Cabin 9 on Half Moon Cay was perfect.  Not too far away from the food and bathrooms, but far enough from most of the crowd.

*Look at your ship itinerary for the upcoming day.  Look for activities to do with older and younger kids separately.  If younger kids need a nap, take older ones to the Arcade or similar while younger ones nap.  Divide and conquer.

*Have fun and be flexible!

 

I hope you enjoyed this post. 

Have you been on a cruise and have tips to share? Know of any awesome places to “WANDER”?  Please post them in the comments.  I love reading feedback!

*I am not a paid advertiser or affiliate of anything written in my posts.  I truly just want to share my experiences in hopes it’ll help other homeschoolers/families make the most of their time together.  If you have any comments or questions, please post them below or email me at gini@wanderinghomeschoolers.com.  Thanks for visiting!

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