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I am Jennie of J.B. Tols.I am an interior designer, photographer, blogger, advocate, adventurer, wife and mother

September 23, 2019

OUR FAMILY VACATION TO THE BAHAMAS

I have discovered that any vacation on or near water is my kind of vacation. So, this vacation did not disappoint especially since it was my very first cruise to the Bahamas.

Consequently, this trip only served to make me a confirmed sea cruise fan.

It is, to date, still my only cruise; but I long to make it the first of very many cruises, indeed. I want to do them ALL and go everywhere on a cruise ship. I want to see the whole world from the balcony of one of these beautiful vessels.

Beaches from First Cruise to The Bahamas

OUR BUDGET

We took this trip in a season of our lives when we had very little to no money. We struggled. It was bad enough that we took no honeymoon nor a vacation for the first five years of marriage.

Finally, we got a break and received a lump sum of about $3,000.00. We had so many things that we could have and should have used that money for, but I was dying inside to take a vacation with our family—as was everyone else.

My love language is most definitely ‘Family Time’ with ‘Acts of Service’ as a close second. I went eight years without a vacation. So, my vote was to use the money for a family vacation of some sort.

I have no idea why a cruise came to mind, but it did and I began to research it!

My son was dating a girl from Europe, at the time, and she was in the country. So, we potentially had 11 of our family members who would be on the trip (My husband, me and eight of our kids and a plus one).

Two of my sons were away for the military and could not go on a vacation with us. My husbands children did not take to the “new” family very well, at all. So, two of his children declined going on a the trip, which put us down four total people.

In the end, three of my sons, the girlfriend and my husbands youngest child were confirmed, if I could get everything planned.

Finally, at the last minute, I called Norwegian Cruise Lines. I spoke with an operator to discuss the feasibility of us taking a vacation on $3,000.00. So, I just started the conversation off with, ‘Hey, this is how much money that I have. What can we do, if anything?’

To my surprise, the operator came back with a three day all inclusive cruise that we could take to the Bahamas. After taxes, it was going to come to approximately $3,500 in total for seven people. The trip would be on one of their small cruise ships and sleeping in two interior cabins. I was all in!

To my surprise, the operator came back with a three day all inclusive cruise that we could take to The Bahamas. After taxes, it was going to come to approximately $3,500 in total for seven people.

I asked everyone if we could come up with an additional $500 and we confirmed that we could. So, I called her back and told her that the trip was a go. When we finalized the plans on the phone, I cried. I am not even someone who cries, but it had been so long coming and such a relief that I, literally, sat on the phone and cried.

We were going on our first cruise to the Bahamas!!

I wasn’t blogging at the time that we took this trip. So, I didn’t plan for keeping track of trip fees and expenses and events to retell to my viewers. So, I will just tell you everything that I can remember—which is probably the most important information, anyway.


ALL INCLUSIVE CRUISES

WHAT IT MEANT FOR US. AND, WHAT IT COULD MEAN FOR YOU.

Family image in the ocean on Our First Cruise to the Bahamas

We were so strapped for finances that if we had been required to buy food on the trip, it would have broken us–literally.

An all inclusive trip meant the difference between being able to take the trip and not. We were so strapped for finances that if we bought food on the trip, it would have broken us—literally.

An all inclusive trip meant that all of our food and drinks were included in the cruise cost. Once we paid that $3500, we were, technically, done with expenses. Of course, with every vacation, there are 500 different add-ons that can be tacked onto your bill. We just went into it knowing that we were taking the trip, eating the food on the ship and thanking God above that we had the opportunity to do anything at all and leaving it at that.

THE DOWNSIDE OF AN ALL INCLUSIVE CRUISE

PARTIERS

An all inclusive cruise also means that every young person, also on a budget, is probably going to be on your trip. And, young people like to drink and party on vacation. I don’t have anything wrong with them doing that, necessarily. Just know that if you are wanting to take a quiet, relaxing, family cruise, it is going to be shoulder to shoulder on the ship deck, very busy, and loud. And, there will be a handful of very drunk people walking around; or, in our case, propped up in hallway corners.

Just know that if you are wanting to take a quiet, relaxing, family cruise, it is going to be shoulder to shoulder on the ship deck, very busy–and loud. And, there will be a handful of very drunk people walking around; or, in our case, propped up in hallway corners.

We were desperate for a vacation. So, it wouldn’t have been a deal breaker, even now looking back; but just know that it goes with the territory.

AVERAGE FOOD

Also, with an all inclusive trip, your food is going to be a bit more like you would find at a cafeteria style restaurant. You remember the Golden Corrals and such, right? Yeah, those. But, again…I was on our first cruise to the Bahamas! I did not care–and my kids definitely did not care. They did offer one steak restaurant on the ship. It cost extra to eat there; and, it was not in our budget. So, we didn’t try it out.

My parents have been on a couple cruises where they were treated like Kings and Queens with amazing chocolate smorgasbords and the like. This was not that. This was a cruise on a budget. And, heck, if you are on a budget, that is okay, right?

My parents have been on a couple cruises where they were treated like Kings and Queens with amazing chocolate smorgasbords and the like. This was not that. This was a cruise on a budget. And, heck, if you are on a budget, that is okay, right?

SIZE DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU DON’T KNOW ANY BETTER

I didn’t realize that our ship was super small until we would port and “park” next to other ships. Another reason why the trip was affordable was because our ship was considerably smaller than other ships, our rooms were so itty-bitty (the bathrooms in our cabins were the size of one you would find in a camper with a very similar shower, toilet and sink), the ship was much older and did not have many amenities on it. On deck, we had one very small swimming pool that was too full of people to even get into, a small basketball court, and I think that it had a shuffle board court, as well. Inside, it had a small kids activity area, a very small arcade and a small dance floor. I am not sure that it had anything besides what I have listed here.


My family playing in the water on our first cruise to the Bahamas | J.B. TOLS

3 WAYS THAT I STAYED WITHIN BUDGET ON OUR FIRST CRUISE TO THE BAHAMAS

  1. WE PACKED SNORKEL GEAR:
    • The cruise line will offer a lot of land and sea excursions such as: swimming with dolphins, kayaking, land tours, snorkel rentals, etc. I did my research before I left and talked it over with the kids that we were there to swim in the ocean and to relax and that we were not going to be doing any of the excursions.We are big water people. So, we had tubs of snorkel gear stored in the garage that I pulled out. My husband and his son didn’t have anything. So, I did run over to Target and bought them some snorkel gear before we left. I think that it costs $40 a day to rent snorkel gear from the cruise line; and we used our snorkel gear every single day. So, you can imagine how much money that saved us. Really, at the end of the day, all we truly needed on the trip was our snorkel gear. We spent every opportunity to be in the water chasing fish and turtles. I know that we would have been miserable without it.
  2. WE ALWAYS ATE ON THE SHIP:
    • We could have eaten at any of the ports, but we made sure to eat a big meal before we disembarked from the ship and we did not eat again until we were back on the ship. Luckily, most ports were such that we could get on and off of the boat whenever we wanted to. The only time that we took a ferry from the boat to land was when we visited the cruise lines private island. You had a set time to get off of the ship and then a set time to get back onto the ship. But, the cruise line made that pleasant by having food on the island that was free. And, those meals were my favorite because the food was done in Luau style. Yum.
  3. WE WERE CONTENT WITH SITTING ON THE BEACH, SWIMMING AND PLAYING IN THE SAND:
    • We didn’t buy a bunch of needless souvenirs; didn’t do any of the excursions; nor did we eat at any of the islands restaurants; and, we didn’t rent anything. We had our water bottles, which we brought from home. So, we consumed water or free drinks on the ship to save money, as well. We just resigned ourselves to being fully content with what we had before us—and, it was perfectly okay. We were on our first cruise to the Bahamas for goodness sakes!

7 NECESSARY PACKING TIPS FOR GOING ON A CRUISE TO THE BAHAMAS

  1. DO NOT OVERPACK
    • I overpacked and did not have one of those suitcases that can be wheeled around upright. I do now! But, I didn’t have one for this trip. When you board the boat, you may be walking from one side of the ship to the other; Or, from end to end to find your cabin. And, you will have to somehow get your luggage there with you. Pack light or use luggage that rolls with great ease. If not, you will be very unhappy before the trip even starts.
  2. Pack goggles and snorkel gear.
    • A must have! Period.
  3. My son borrowed a friends GoPro.
    • We loved playing the videos of us snorkeling when we came home. It was so beautiful. Also, a camera is a must, for obvious reasons.
  4. LEAVE BEHIND ALL OF THE EXTRA SAND TOYS
    • I packed a ton of sand toys for my youngest son, but we were in the water so much that we didn’t use any of them. And, I was always so burdened with bags that I regretted that I packed so much ‘stuff’.
  5. Pack sunscreen and lip balm, of course.
  6. Pack more than one swim suit, beach towel, etc…just like you would if you were driving to the beach.
  7. I got waterproof lanyards for everyone to wear while we were snorkeling.
    • The lanyards held their money, phones and such. I kept our ID and birth certificates folded up in mine. Anytime that we got off of that ship I made sure that I had proof of our identity and citizenship with me at all times. Yes—even in the water. I may have been paranoid, but I have never had my kids out of the country in that manner before and I was not going to take any chances.
  8. Pack ‘Heavy lifting’ Sandals
    • The sand is hot just like any other beach; and, you will have a lot of walking to do. So, I always recommend nice sandals such a Keens® or Chacos® that are able to get wet or hosed off at the end of a great day.
Girls playing in the water on Our First Cruise to the Bahamas

Anytime that we got off of that ship I made sure that I had proof of our identity and citizenship with me at all times. Yes—even in the water.

All-in-all, our first cruise to the Bahamas did not disappoint. We saw beautiful ocean views from the ships deck and beautiful sunrises and sunsets from the middle of the ocean. We got to experience the beautiful islands of the Bahamas and swim with sea turtles and gorgeous saltwater fish. And, we spent quality time making memories together. We were very grateful that, even on a very tight budget, we were given the opportunity to take this cruise.

Interested in another bloggers take on The Bahamas? Read 10 FIRST TIME CRUISE TIPS TO PREPARE FOR YOUR FIRST CRUISE.


If you have any questions, suggestions or even fun stories about a cruise that you may have taken, please comment in the comment section below. I would love to hear all about it!


If you enjoyed this post, consider reading about our other adventures:

8 DAYS SPENT IN FRANCE ON A BUDGET

OUR RV ROAD TRIP TO COLORADO

Or, read about another adventure that we had on the water at:

OUR DALE HALLOW HOUSE BOAT ADVENTURE

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