Group Cruise Tips: Family Reunion Cruise

We recently went on a family reunion cruise with my husband’s family and everyone had a lot of fun. This was our very first cruise with a group. Imagine all 15 of us on a long table having dinner every night and taking over the whole row of seats at the nightly shows. If you’ve never cruised before, check out all our cruise tips and read up below on my group cruise tips for your future cruise with your family or friends.

family reunion cruise tips



We went on a cruise to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico via Carnival Inspiration 5 Day Cruise. We’ve gone on multiple cruises with Carnival Inspiration but this is our first time cruising with a big group, usually, it’s just the four of us.

Our cruise departed on a Monday and got back Friday morning.

If you’re going to take the cruise from Long Beach, I would suggest not getting there before 12. We only found out from this recent cruise that only the outdoor queue/counter is open before noon.

The actual cruise you’re boarding on is still disembarking previous passengers, which usually lasts until 11 AM, so even the parking might still be pack from leaving passengers. So don’t get there too early.

1. Board together for pre-board group photos

If you want a family picture or group picture of your cruise even before you board, try to board together.  Set a designated time and place to meet before lining up to get your sign and sail card together. This enables you to get pre-board photos as a group since they will have pictorial opportunities right before you board.

The cabins also doesn’t open right when you board Carnival Cruise or even other cruises. If I remember right, cabins only open at about 2PM.

We had 4 cabins between 4 families, all on the same level but not side by side. One room even fit 5. There’s a queen bed and bunk beds attached to the wall for the kids.

We forgot to bring our walkie talkies to communicate since there’s no cel signal unless you’re willing to pay, but for some reason we found each other at the buffet area all the time. LOL.

2. Bring a Walkie-Talkie

Get a walkie talkie so you can communicate on board in case you want to do activities together, especially on bigger cruise ships.

We always bring our own carry-ons on board instead of checking them in. We load all of our carry-ons on a Zooper stroller and bring them to the pool deck to eat at noon while waiting for our cabin rooms to open.

If you check-in your luggage, they will bring your luggage right to your door but you’d have to place them outside the night before disembarkation. During our previous cruise, a passenger didn’t get his luggage at all, so if you can, just bring it up yourself.

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Group Cruise: Carnival Inspiration Day 1

For Day 1 of our group cruise, we had lunch at the Lido Deck and enjoyed burgers, tacos and everything else on the buffet. We were ready for a nap once we got to the room but the kids just wanted to play so nap didn’t happen until 4PM.



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We were then awoken by the muster station announcement by 5PM. What is that? Before any cruise departs the dock, you’d have to go to your muster station for a safety briefing in case of emergency. They show you how to use the life jacket and bring you to the deck where the life boats are located.



After the briefing we went straight to the dining room for our sit down dinner that started at 6PM. If you’ve never cruise with Carnival, you have a choice of early dining (6PM), late dining and anytime dining besides the buffet, deli and pizza at the brasserie that’s pretty much open throughout the day.

3. Try to seat together at the dining room

Seating at the dining area is pre-set before you board. Make sure to tell your travel agent to seat you together especially if you have different last names. The most you can do is probably 15. More than that, you’d already be seated separately.

4. Don’t order the same thing as much as possible

Try not to order the same thing so you can try different dishes together.


Related Cruise Post: Carnival Cruise Menu


Since it was a summer cruise and the sun doesn’t set ’til very late. The hubby took everyone for a tour of the ship as some in our group are first time cruisers. We ended up at the slide area at the back of the ship and it was amazing at 8PM because the sun has just set and the sky was beautiful for a group picture. It would have been nice if we caught the sunset though, since I’m a sucker for sunsets.



Typically, we’d watch a live show on the first night of the cruise but they didn’t have one anymore on Carnival Inspiration. So after a quick game of mini golf by the kids, we ended up at the Game Room.

The kids took out game boards and what was suppose to be a quick “let’s buy a drink downstairs” scenario for the adults (3 couples), it ended up being a 2 hour impromptu date night as the kids’ grandparents watched and babysat all 7 of their grandkids. Yikes.

5. Drink together at the pool deck bar or casino level where there is a band

For a quick drink with your group, head to the Casino level where there is a bar with a band that plays every night. And for a really good cocktail, order the Bahama Mama or the Pina Colada.


After some drinks, music and lots of laughter with my husband’s brother and sister and their spouse. We headed back to the game room to get the kids from their grandma. Thinking the kids would be ready to sleep by then, nope! The kids were hungry.. again! And off to the brasserie for pizza and sandwiches at the deli 3 hours after a 3 course meal at the dining area. LOL.

It was a fun first day and we were just getting started. Next up day 2 on Carnival Inspiration.

Group Cruise: Carnival Inspiration Day 2

Carnival Inspiration docks on Catalina Island on Day 2. After our breakfast buffet, we headed to the Paris lounge to get tender stickers as those going to shore will be riding a boat by group to get to shore. It was a big boat and can fit many people.


Related Cruise Post: Princess Cruises Breakfast Buffet with a View

6. Set meeting areas

Set an area where and what time you’d want to meet up for breakfast. And also head to the pool area where the omelet bar is, as well as to avoid the long lines to get breakfast. What is served at the buffet in the brasserie inside is the same as outside at the pool area. 

If you’ve never been to Catalina Island, you can snorkel, walk and find a place to dine at or what we have experienced and liked is driving around the island in a golf cart. It’s a magnificent view from atop the island. Or you can check with Carnival Cruise for their shore excursions choices.

7. Take excursions together

Make sure to go to the tender/boat together as there are two on the same level (at least for Catalina Island). We ended up in 2 different boats as 2 families went to the left stairs, and the other 2 went to the right, we didn’t see each other. Not that it’s a big deal since we had cel signal in Catalina. But in case you’re going to another place, then it’s a must if you wish to do everything together.


For this cruise, we merely walk around, took some photos and was back at the ship by noon as the kids were eager to hit the slides.We went to the slide deck while most cruisers were at Catalina. The adults lounged around after 1 try at the huge slide (a must try). We then each got a cocktail then headed to the pool deck (separate from the slides for Carnival Inspiration) for some Mexican tacos by 1PM.

Related Cruise Post: 10 Reasons to Cruise with the Kids for your next Family Vacation 

I would suggest instead of getting a burrito or taco from Blue Iguana Cantina, ask for their rice and shrimp instead. It was really good. I feel though that the taco meat got salty that day. Bummer since we really loved it from our previous cruise.

Related Cruise Post: Made to Order Tacos & Burritos at Carnival Cruise



We all took a nap after this. All the walk, pool time and food will ensure a really good nap. LOL. We missed out on the afternoon activities (we always do because of naps) like the Suess Parade and story time which the kids would have love to see.


Day 2 was formal night during our sit down dinner. Since we were all dress more proper than usual, we did a photography session on board. If you’ve never cruise before, about 10 photographers lined the hallways of deck 9 with backgrounds for you to choose from. You have the option to purchase the photos or not if you end up not liking them. They will be on display at the Pixels Gallery right at the atrium of deck 9 and available until the last night of the cruise.

8. Get plenty of pictures together

Make sure to get tons of photos together. Formal or casual. 

After our quick photo session, we went to the Paris Lounge for a live show called Motor City that started at 8:15PM. They comprise of singers and dancers playing the R&B tunes of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

There’s also a Comedy Club at the Candlelight Lounge but is for the 18+. But as always, we were with kids who got hungry again after the show. So off the get more food at the brasserie at 10PM. It’s been a long day and we were back in our room by 1015PM.

Thanks Carnival for an awesome Day 2.

Group Cruise: Carnival Inspiration Day 3

Day 3 of our Group Cruise with Carnival Inspiration docked us at Ensenada, Mexico. After the usual very filling breakfast buffet, the adults and the bigger kids went down to Ensenada for some really authentic tacos and seafood while the grandparents, me and the really young ones stayed behind to avoid the heat and the long walks.

Related Cruise Post: You wanna be a Kid again when you see Princess Cruises Day Care

We placed the kids at Camp Ocean – Carnival Cruise’s Daycare on board. Our toddler who is the clingy one didn’t wanna stay behind. I snuck out and was ready to pull out my magazine while seating poolside to relax when I got a call to pick her up already. She was crying incessantly. So I took her out and walked around the ship instead while waiting for big sis’.

Hours later, the kids were done as well and we stayed in our cabin so they can play more. Lego, Play Doh, etc. followed by Jell-O. We headed back to the buffet so they can start lunch and right when we got back to our cabin, the hubby arrived and we went for a nap.

9. Don’t feel like you need to do everything together

You don’t need to do everything together as a group. Set time or activities you’d like to do together like dinner or watching shows. Maybe the ladies want to do the afternoon tea together or the guys want to get drinks together. Get the kids at Camp Ocean together and then other times just do your own thing.


Day 3 was very chill followed by dinner at 6PM and a Hasbro Game Show at 815PM which my brother in law got to participate in. If you’re cruising with Carnival, make sure not to miss this show as cruisers can get pick to join the game show and win prizes.

Related Cruise Post: 20 Reasons Why we Love Cruising

10. Join family games

Go to games and have a family member join, lots of fun cheering for them. Or join classes together like towel folding class.


And you already know it, we ate again after the show. LOL. I did gain a pound when we got back.

Group Cruise: Carnival Inspiration Day 4

Day 4 already!!! The cruise went by so fast! I’m so not ready to go down. One of our favorites when cruising with Carnival is their Sea Day brunch, check out our previous experience here. So we ate at the dining room for brunch, instead of the usual breakfast buffet.


Since the toddler’s birthday is already approaching, the waiters brought her a slice of cake with a candle and sang to her. A group cruise is a great way to celebrate someone’s birthday in the family by the way.

11. Celebrate special occasions on board

Make sure to tell your server during sit down dinner or brunch if anyone in your group is celebrating a birthday or have their birthday coming up.

Another option for brunch is the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with Dr. Suess for an extra fee on Sea Days.

There is another Hasbro Game Show in the afternoon and Tea Time that we didn’t attend. The hubby wasn’t feeling well and we stayed in the room for a nap while the rest of our group enjoyed the slide and the pool and we found out my other brother in law won in the Hairy Chest contest. Haha. We missed out on all the craziness at the pool deck and even the afternoon tea.

Related Read: Afternoon Tea Experience with Princess Cruises

For our sit down dinner. Our waiters served us Filipino food instead of the usual menu. Pancit, Sinigang and the best Adobo we’ve ever tried. We then tried some of the appetizers and desserts to topped what was already an amazing and filling dinner.


Group Cruise: Carnival Inspiration Day 5

Day 5 is disembarkation day. Since we’ve cruised a lot and know the crazy line during disembarkation. We suggested to our group to just stay and be the last to disembark since none of us are really on a rush to go anywhere after the cruise.

You will be asked to vacate your room at 830AM so we stayed at the brasserie where you can have a breakfast buffet until 930AM instead of lining up to disembark. And it was the best decision we did this time as from the time we left the ship, go through immigration to the parking lot, there was no line at all. Before we’d be on a line to get out, and people would cut in line, it’s a stop and go situation that goes on for about 2 hours.

Now that you’re read about our group cruise tips. Check our post – Princess VS Carnival Cruise, to figure which cruise line fits the personality of your group.

Overall it was a fun Family Reunion Cruise. How about you, what has your cruise been like? Got any group cruise tips to share? Let us know. Leave your comments below.



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