Misto Box

Everyone deserves something for the holidays, but what says your special more than a gift that just keeps on giving all year long.  That's why I am choosing to bring you a selection of subscription boxes for our gift guide.  The first one I would like to tell you about is Misto Box which a monthly subscription box of 4 handpicked bags of incredible coffee!

This months box invluded Panama Elida Esate, Kenya Tegu, Guatemala Codech co-op, and Sulawesi Tana Toraja. All of which came from California except for the Guatemala Codech co-op which is from Milwaukee WI.  The box also includes interesting facts about each brand of coffee so while your enjoying your delicious cup you can read about the why's and wheres.  For example the Panama Elida Estate is from Portola Coffee Lab and more than half of their farm is actually located in the Violcan Baru National Parck which is a protected ecological reserve for exotic plants and animals.

I love the Misto Box because not only is the coffee amazing, but the company takes the time to help you understand the ways to grind, brew and enjoy the different blends of coffee. Be sure to check them out at the following links and order your favorite couple a subscription box today!

Website    Facebook    Twitter  

I received one or more of the products mentioned above free for review purposes. Regardless, I will only recommend products that I have personally tested/tried and believe will be a good fit for my readers. AlyGators is not responsible for any Giveaway items. All giveaway items will be shipped directly from the company that sponsors our giveaway.  

Be sure to check out our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide 

Bongo Women's Aqua Water Shoes

I bought the Bongo Women's Aqua Water Shoes for a recent cruise due to one of the excursions stating “water shoes required”…. Ok, I have to admit, I haven’t owned a pair of water shoes in years so the cheaper the better, I'll leave them on the boat at the end of the cruise.  After all, why do I need them right?
When I saw these at Sears for $5 bucks I was a little nervous but for one day, I guess they will do.  Well was I wrong!  I went hiking through the jungle in Belize to go Zip lining and Cave Tubing and they held up great!!!  Definitely a muddy rocky path but it was an amazing experience.  I'm also terrified of heights so that was maybe a once in a life-time experience.   Both my husbands and my sons water shoes (purchased from other places) were shredded on the bottoms by the end of the day!  Maison did pretty good about not complaining, I think the tour guide kept him entertained.  But every now and then I would hear a few mumbles out of Steven because his shoes were so thin and the rocks were so large! My shoes kept my feet well protected and the hike was amazing!!
My shoes lasted me through two more beach days and still look great!  These are awesome water shoes and amazing for the price!  I would absolutely order another pair!
   I got these at our local Sears but you can order a pair online by clicking here.


  Here are a few pictures from our trip!  The jungle is BEAUTIFUL!!!!

I am not affiliated with Bongo Shoes or Sears.  This review was my choice to provide.   


Global Goddess Giveaway

It's been a long time since we've done a giveaway so I figured why not start off with an awesome Global Goddess Giveaway!

We have an awesome set of eye products to give to one lucky reader!  What's in the set?
            1 Exotic Eyes Blackest Black Nourishing Mascara
            1 Coconut Amla Lash & Brow Conditioning Serum
            1  Sizzling Seregeti Tribal Eyeshadow Quad in Eldoret
Total value is $47!!

First I would like to tell you about the Exotic Eyes Blackest Black Nourishing Mascara.   This mascara is one of my favorites, simply because of how strong it is against my busy day!  I am constantly running in a thousand different directions and one thing I noticed is this mascara holds up past my expectations.  It's smudge proof, tear proof, sweat proof and run proof says the packaging and I proved it true!.

When I put it on, I instantly like how it feels.  It doesn't clump or even pull your eyelashes together for that "thicker" look.  It defines them and feels great! 

Besides for the great durability, what makes it so different than the rest?  The ingredients!  Containing Japanese Camellia Seed oil, it nourishes, moisturizes and strengthens lashes.  Then it also contains Aloe Vera which also strengthens, conditions, moisturizes, and promotes healthy lash growth.  And of course, the Exotic Eyes Blackest Black Nourishing Mascara is paraben, sulfate, and fragrance free! 

Now the Coconut Amla Lash & Brow Conditioning Serum was something I was a little iffy about.  This is a great product to add to your nighttime personal care routine. 
Simply apply a coat onto your clean lashes or eye brows.  The abundance of natural ingredients provides treatment and prevention to your lashes and eye brows.  Check out this massive list of natural ingredients.

Pelvetia Canaliculata Extract and Laminaria Digitata Extract - obtained from brown algae or seaweed found only along the shores of Europe, these extracts are filled with amino acids that fuel lash growth, prevent and treat damage, and give lashes and brows a natural shine and luster.
  • Cocos Nucifera Coconut Extract - found mostly in the tropics, coconut extract is rich in antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. This extract is also an excellent humectant that hydrates, conditions and moisturizes.
  • Grape Seed Extract - Grape seeds’ oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes, flavonoids, Vitamin E and linoleic acid content helps prevent free radical damage. This extract has been found to be effective in preventing and treating hair loss or for promoting lash and brow growth.
  • Urtica Dioica Nettle Extract - an herb used for centuries to treat multiple ailments because of its natural anti inflammatory effects, stinging nettle has been gaining popularity in treating hair loss.
  • Horse Chestnut Seed Extract - another herb high in active components escin and sterols with anti inflammatory benefits and antioxidant flavonoids with anti inflammatory and antibacterial activities.
  • Apple Fruit Extract - one of nature’s best gifts, apple’s vitamin and nutrient content helps rejuvenate and promote growth of dull, thin lashes and brows.
  • Witch Hazel Extract - has rejuvenating, medicinal and healing benefits. It adds volume, shine and luster, and prevents and reduces lash fallout.
  • Amla Fruit Extract - used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, this Indian Gooseberry extract is high in Vitamin C and polyphenols. It gives lashes and brows natural shine, prevents hair loss, and deeply conditions.
  • Rosa Damascena Flower Distillate - this expensive Bulgarian Rose extract has excellent emollient properties for moisturizing, conditioning and hydrating brows and lashes. It also offers antiseptic and anti inflammatory properties.

  • Last but not least; is the Sizzling Serengeti Tribal Eyeshadow Quad.  I wasn't able to test out this one so I can only provide you with the companies picture.   But I do love those colors!!! 

    Our giveaway will run September 15th -29th.  Giveaway rules are as follows;
    1. Visit efficientliving.com and comment on products contestant would like to try on blogger's site.
    2. Follow efficientliving.com on Facebook - with highest point value
    3. Follow marjsnaturals on Twitter
    4. Follow you on your site(s)
    5. Open to US residents 18 years of age or older
    6. Giveaway prize worth $47.00 - includes (1) Exotic Eyes Blackest Black Nourishing Mascara, (1) Coconut Amla Lash & Brow Conditioning Serum, (1) Sizzling Serengeti Tribal Eyeshadow Quad in Eldoret

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    I received one or more of the products mentioned above free for review purposes. Regardless, I will only recommend products that I have personally tested/tried and believe will be a good fit for my readers. AlyGators is not responsible for any Giveaway items. All giveaway items will be shipped directly from the company that sponsors our giveaway. 


    Gill Family

    Isn't this a beautiful family?  Well this beautiful family could really use some help right now.  Matasha is my supermom!  With ten children, she is the most organized efficient and calmest person I know! And Kenny, well I've worked with him for the last 5 years and he truly is one of the good guys!

    "Kenny and Matasha Gill are the parents of 10 children, his hers and theirs. They were in a horrible wreck this past week and both have bad injuries. Matasha's 'Nanny' lost her life. They had their 3 month old son with them at the time, but thank God he was uninjured. The Gills live in Neosho Missouri. It is going to take several months for both to even begin to heal and need all the help they can get.

    All we can really ask is that you pray for this beautiful family.  However, if you have the ability GoFundMe has an account set up to help cover some of the expenses they are going to endure during this horrific time.  Click here to be directed to that page. 

     Accident on Southwest Missouri highway claims one life

    Updated: Jul 17, 2014 8:07 PM MDT


    On 07-16-14 at approximately 3:45 p.m., Officers were dispatched to a traffic accident at Missouri Highway AA and I-49. Upon arrival and investigation, it was determined that a tractor-trailer, driven by a Hiawatha, Kansas man, was traveling northbound on I-49 and exited at AA Highway. The tractor-trailer was then proceeding northbound across Highway AA heading toward the northbound on-ramp of Highway AA. A Ford SUV, driven by a Neosho, Missouri man, was traveling westbound on Highway AA at that same time. The SUV was unable to get stopped in time and struck the side of the tractor-trailer. All four occupants in the SUV were transported to Freeman West Hospital in Joplin. Two of those occupants were transported by helicopter and two by ambulance. Those transported by ambulance were a 32-year-old female and 3-month-old male. Two helicopters were landed at the scene of the accident and they transported a 32-year-old male and 91-year-old female.

    The three adults sustained significant injuries and were being admitted to Freeman West Hospital for care. The 3-month-old child was un-injured in the accident and released at the hospital. The driver of the tractor-trailer refused medical treatment on scene and was reported to be un-injured.

    It has been confirmed by Freeman West Hospital that Ms. Lucille Harris passed away Thursday at 3:37 p.m., due to the injuries she sustained in the accident.  Ms. Harris was 91 years old and was a passenger in the SUV that was being driven by Kenneth Gill.   Mr. Gill and is currently in critical condition and is being treated for his injuries at Freeman West Hospital.  His wife Virginia Matasha Gill is responsive and in stable condition."

    Read additional news article here:  CLICK HERE




    SteamMachine Plus

    It's been awhile since I have been able to actually sit down at the computer for more than a few seconds so I figured I would squeeze in some time today and tell you about my new mop.  Then, it's off to the pool with the kids!

    About a month ago I received the HomeRight SteamMachine Steam Mop.  (Say that three times fast!)  But in all seriousness, I couldn't be happier with it!  It's way better than my high dollar name brand, you know the one that's on tv a million times a day!  The SteamMachine Steam mop is super easy to store and use plus it comes with attachments so I can use it anywhere in the house! 

    I'm only going to highlight a few of my favorite features because this mop can do it all!
    - First the water reservoir comes off the mop so I can fill it right from the sink rather than making a mess! 
     - The handle folds down making it super easy to store and it even fits in my cleaning closet!  I love that the kids can't get it out and start playing with it!
    - It heats up in less than 30 seconds AND only produces steam when you push the button which is great because I don't have to worry about it ruining my floor when I turn it off.
    -The blue part comes off of the main stand up component which gives so many more options for the rest of the house!  The mop comes with several attachments so that little handheld thing works great on my ENTIRE house, including the bathrooms and highchairs!  Oh I love using it on the highchairs and TOYS! 
    -And my final FAVORITE feature.... The mop head uses a reusable cloth that once I'm done I just toss in the washer and use over and over again!

    The only thing I found a little frustrating is I have a HUGE house, so the cord isn't quite long enough to do an entire room without an extension cord.  Other than that, I absolutely love this mop!!!  Be sure to check it out on their website!


    Product Specifications:
    Included in Box:
    • Detachable Steamer
    • Steamer Frame
    • Mop Head
    • Carpet Glider
    • (2) Microfiber Mop Pads
    • Squeegee/Fabric Steamer
    • Cotton Bonnet for Squeegee/Fabric Steamer
    • Small Nylon Brush
    • Large Nylon Brush
    • Angled Jet Nozzle
    • Grout Brush
    • Scraper
    • Straight Adaptor
    • Measuring Cup
    • 205 degree F steam
    • 20 Minute Run Time
    • Heats Up in 30 Seconds
    • 12 Ounce Water Tank
    • 1500 Watts
    • 120 Volts
    • 16 Foot Cord
    • UL Safety Listed

    I received one or more of the products mentioned above free for review purposes. Regardless, I will only recommend products that I have personally tested/tried and believe will be a good fit for my readers.


    Harvey Prince Journey


    Harvey Prince has done it again by sending us another great favorite.  This time we received their newest creation Journey and I would love  to share with a few of my readers through a giveaway!  I can choose up to 5 readers to receive a full size Tall Spray ($26 Value)!   I love giving away Harvey Prince to our readers because I want you to test these products with me!
    So...  What do I think?  Well Harvey Prince has sent us two products before, read those reviews here.   (click here) The long lasting scent is perfect for spring.  I consider it a spicy floral scent but here's what they have to say;
      Journey, the scent that opens your mind and awakens your senses.
    The road of life is invigorating, mystical and often unpredictable. Stay enlightened with

    Exotic, inspiring and full of surprises, Journey whisks you away from the day-to-day. Indulge in the spicy seduction of Indian Tuberose, the striking and sweet sensation of Turkish Cyclamen and the purifying calm of Spanish Mandarin. Journey's scent opens up the richness and mystery of the world and rekindles your inner spirit.

    Savor the delicate notes of South African Freesia, Japanese Orange flower and Moroccan rose – it’s like sipping a sweet, Alsatian wine in the light of the sun! Hints of spicy Indonesian Clove Bud trickle in while the deep and intriguing Australian Sandalwood transports you to a faraway land. Journey’s relaxing and mystical powers will stir your imagination and reconnect you with your own destiny. Your adventure catalyst.

    So who wants to win one of these full size sprays and help us spread the word about this great new scent?

    Check out Harvey Prince at the following links;
    Website           Facebook           Twitter

    I received one or more of the products mentioned above free for review purposes. Regardless, I will only recommend products that I have personally tested/tried and believe will be a good fit for my readers. AlyGators is not responsible for any Giveaway items. All giveaway items will be shipped directly from the company that sponsors our giveaway. 


    Nicole Lee Spring Collection

    Nicole Lee has officially launched their spring collection and I about went crazy trying to pick out my favorite handbag. Oh my goodness were so many beautiful bags the decision was not an easy one! After hours of browsing I finally narrowed my favorite down to about 10 (yea it was a really hard choice) but I’m thrilled with the one I received for review. 

    I choose the Brielle Clear Shopper which is going to be perfect for my beach vacation in a couple of weeks! When I ordered it, the online picture showed it being a clear bag, after all that’s even in the name. But when I received it not only did the bag came just as pictured, there’s an additional inside bag to put all your personals. This bag really has the best of both worlds!

     The size is amazing also! 15”x12” is incredible for carrying all of my must haves! I never seem to have enough room in my purse and this is perfect for spring and summer! 

    While I ordered mine in yellow, it also comes in so many different colors. The yellow is perfect for me but you can get yours in blue, white, black or even hot pink. Yup there it is a true selection to an awesome hand bag! 

    Besides for the beautiful color, awesome style, and bright shinny bling, what is my favorite feature? I love the adjustable and removable shoulder straps. You can use the two handles attached to the bag or it you want to free up your hands (in my case to carry my little ones) just attach the shoulder strap that it comes with. Totally perfect!

    You have to check out the spring collection: CLICK HERE

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    I received one or more of the products mentioned above free for review purposes. Regardless, I will only recommend products that I have personally tested/tried and believe will be a good fit for my readers. AlyGators is not responsible for any Giveaway items. All giveaway items will be shipped directly from the company that sponsors our giveaway. 


    RavPower External Battery Charger

    When hubby and I got our new phones a few months ago he got one of the backup chargers which I tend to still often. Only bad thing with it was, it would only charge my phone one time before I would have to charge the charger. Yea can you see the problem there? Yea that pretty much defeated the whole process. So when I found RavPower I figured I would give them a try and see if they were any better. 

    I ordered the RAVPower Deluxe External Battery and it’s pretty stinkin cool! It doesn’t matter if I want to charge my I-phone, the boys tablets, or even my Kindle it does it all! It also came with all the different adaptors and a bag to put them in so everything is in a nice neat little place. So who’s toy do we charge first? How about the boys but both at once! I love this because it has two ports so both the boys can charge whatever they have with them and not fight over who goes first. That’s a life saver for the boys or mom, depending on how you think about it, because one there’s no fighting and no mess of their chargers strung out through the car! I love it!!!

     So besides for the “coolness” features, how’s it compare to the one hubby has? Well if just I use it for my phone it can charge my phone 7-8 times before I need to charge it again.  

    Check out the RAVPower Deluxe External Battery with all the details and you wont believe the price! I’ll give you a hint, it’s on sale!!

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    I received one or more of the products mentioned above free for review purposes. Regardless, I will only recommend products that I have personally tested/tried and believe will be a good fit for my readers.


    New Dial Deep Cleansing Hand Soap

    Dial has come out with another great product.  Last week we received our package of the New Dial Deep cleansing Hand soap and everyone in the house loves it!  The new soap comes in some pretty vibrant colors and scents which is perfect for spring and it also features a gentle micro-scrubber formula that smooth’s and moisturizes the skin.  The moisturizer is a great feature for someone who washes their hands a lot like I do because it is repairing the dryness from the weather and putting moisture back into my hands. 

    What are the new spring scents?

    “Yellow Raspberry & Black Sugar refreshes your senses with a tart and rich sweetness.

    Water Blossoms invigorates with a crisp floral scent inspired by aquatic botanicals.

    Coconut Lime Verbena brightens your day with juicy and tangy citrus”

    We received the Water Blossoms and Yellow Raspberry and love them both!  I guess that means we will have to go get the Coconut Lime Verbena next time we are at the store. 


    The dial brand provided me with a sample of Dial Deep Cleansing Hand Soap in exchange for a product review. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.


    April Fools

    I got to visit with my mom for a little bit the other day and she told me how Miss Aly peeks around the corners before walking down the hallway.  Why would she do that?  Because my dad likes to hide and scare her.  Yup I remember peeking around corners  growing up! So April fools day is the one day of the year where there's no limit on the payback and all is fair game.  Poor Aly, we will teach her how to get him back soon! (I hope!)

    Last year, I wrote a letter pretending to be Jeramiah's teacher saying he was expelled form school for this and that. At the bottom of the letter it was dated "April Fools".  I handed it to their dad and bam it was on!  He was so angry and Jeramiah even pretended to cry when dad started scolding him for being in so much trouble at school.  My boys are learning good!  I'm so proud!

    This year, I already have my "tools".  I ordered "Peek-a-Boo" nail polish from Del Sol.  If you haven't heard of Del Sol, everything changes colors, including this nail polish that goes on clear and in the sun turns bright pink!!!!  bahaha The only real question is "who all will be my victims this year?"  Hubby?  the boys? hummmm Maybe I'll even order an extra bottle for my mom to get my dad!

     Oh but what if he has to work?  I really don't want him getting in trouble at work!  Well as long as he stays inside for the day he will be fine because it's clear until the sun hits it.  He just better put his hands in his pockets as he walks to and from the car. BAHAHAHA

    This was a cloudy day.  So remember the brighter the
    sun the brighter the pink!
    Now, what about for me?  Sure a few bucks for an awesome April Fools joke is ok, but what should I do with it the rest of the year?  Wear it of course!  The bright pink is a totally fun color! But best of all, if I'm in an important meeting or somewhere that I need to be a little more conservative, as long as I'm inside it looks like just clear nail polish.  The color will not change without direct sunlight. 

    The kids are having a lot of fun with the color to!  All my little princesses love showing off their color changing nails.  But we have a lot more colors to discuss in another review.  That's coming soon!

    Check out all of the Del Sol products at the following link;

    I received one or more of the products mentioned above free for review purposes. Regardless, I will only recommend products that I have personally tested/tried and believe will be a good fit for my readers


    Stonefire for dinner tonight!

     Nothing's easier then Pizza for dinner!  But the same old carry out can begin to get old after awhile.  So when we had the opportunity to review a few Stonefire products, we jumped on it! 

    The StoneFire pizza crust are amazing!  The pre-made crust is delicious and full of flavor and the kit even came with the sauce so dinner was easy breezy and way better than the old carry out/delivery service in town. I added some mozzarella, pepperoni and pineapple and everyone dug right in!

    I also had the opportunity to enjoy the Stonefire Pita breads for lunch the following day.  Of course because there was no leftovers from the pizza.  That's ok, because I got to keep these all to myself.  To tell you the truth, I really wasn't as excited to try the pita bread as I was the pizza kit. I have had pita breads before and they are usually dry, hard to open, and tend to be a mess.  Maybe your better at cutting them open than I am, but I almost always have trouble.  Stonefire pita breads really surprised me!  With very few rips and tares, I was easily able to enjoy a great tasting sandwich.  Even I was able to cut, open, and stuff!  So these are an A+ on my list!

    Check out all the Stonefire products at your local grocery store or use the following links for some great recipes.
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    I received one or more of the products mentioned above free for review purposes. Regardless, I will only recommend products that I have personally tested/tried and believe will be a good fit for my readers.

    Elementary School Donation

    I am always encouraging the boys to do things for others than for themselves so when we had the opportunity to donate to their school, they were just as excited as I was. 
    Our biggest lot of items was the 85 kites! Of course we got 20 sets of string to go with them "just in case".

    Next we donated a box of items for the teachers to put in their treasure box's.  Do you remember how much fun it was when you were a kid to get a treat out of the treasure box?   Well most teachers buy those with their own money so we decided to help out.  There is exactly 100 items for the treasure box's.

    Now for the last set of items we really didn't know what to do with.  The principle suggested that the kids could use these seed kits for their Mothers Day projects!  How awesome is that!  We donated 13 seed kits that contain veggies and flowers!  These can be cut up to make so many different plants and I know they will go a long way!

    Our total retail value of this donation: $486!!  What could you donate locally?  This was our most recent project and we would love to feature yours!

    Children's Hospital Donation

    Last week we had the opportunity to get in touch with Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City MO about donating a few bedside toys and hats for cancer patients. 

    We were able to send them 26 hats and a handful of bedside toys.  Total retail value $146. 

    If you would like information on where you can send a donation to, contact Children's Mercy with this link; Children's Mercy Hospital They are always in need of donations to help provide the best care for patients and families. 

    Here's a copy of the current Spring 2014 Wish List
    We cannot accept Nerf guns, spray guns, water guns, pop ball guns, swords, bows and arrows, or toy knives.


    • Infant rattles
    • Infant teethers
    • Infant board or cloth books
    • Infant toys with light and or music
    • Fisher Price Little People sets: plane, bus, barn, house, zoo, etc.


    • $5 Gift Cards to local movie theaters, discount department stores (i.e., Target/Wal-Mart), and gas stations.
    • Electronic games for teenagers
    • Camelbak water bottles
    • Teenage boy items - headphones, watches, wallets, cologne sets, basketballs, footballs
    • Teenage girl items - nail Polish, lip gloss, purses, watches, jewelry


    • My Little Ponies
    • Dr Kits
    • Action Figures - Batman, Spider-Man, Avengers, Transformers, Superman, Ninja Turtles
    • Thomas Trains
    • Uno playing cards
    • Books – Board books, Sound books, Look and Find books, and I Spy books
    • Hot Wheels 
    • Bubbles
    • Sidewalk chalk
    • Jump ropes


    • Disposable cameras
    • Newly-released DVD’s rated G, PG, PG-13
    • Sharpies (multi-colored, fine and ultra-fine point)
    • Fabric markers
    If you and your organization are able to conduct a drive for these Wish List items or you would like more information, please contact Volunteer Services at (816) 234-3496, for the Children's Mercy Downtown.

    Inbox Dollars FREE $5

    Inbox Dollars is pretty cool!  You get $5 just for joining! 

    Get paid to read emails, take surveys online, play games and even one of our favorite things to do... SHOP!


    Everything you need to know about Carnival Cruising

    This is a little long, but I have had a few people ask so here it is!
    One of our Formal Pictures
    Elation 2011

    We cruise a lot so I tried to put as much as I could into one document to help others who might be interested.  I'm sure there are things I forgot but here's what I could think of right off hand.

    Before you plan: Do you need a passport?  It makes things easier yes but if your leaving and coming back in the same port, then no it is not required.  Our boys have been several times with only a birth certificate and they did just fine.  If you are older than 16, you will also need a photo id.  Find more on that by clicking here.

    The first thing everyone asks is “how much does it cost”?  But that’s not really a simple question.  What I will tell you is we have spent a weekend in St. Louis before and we spent just as much in that weekend as we did in an entire week on a Carnival Cruise.  So the math is really up to you and how much you want to do.  First thing you need to do is go sign up for the VIFP club on Carnival's website.  CLICK HERE   That will give you super awesome discounts and help you stay in the loop when there are amazing sales!

    Choosing your room:

    There are different levels of rooms.  The lower the room the cheaper the price, unless you get in on one of the specials where it’s “unlimited Free Upgrades (those are awesome!). 

    An interior room (one with no windows) is usually the cheapest. And really, your on vacation so what do you need a big room for other than to sleep!  GO enjoy the boat and have some fun!  One tip for an interior room, turn the TV on to one of the outside cameras so you can see outside without paying the extra for that outside view.  This will also help your body know the difference between night and day because I assure you in an interior room you will sleep soooo good! Just be careful not to sleep your cruise away!!!  One thing to keep in mind, if you smoke and you want an interior room; book your room on the same floor as the casino or the pool because those are the only areas where you can smoke on the boat. 

    If you like to look around, and your body doesn’t really have a good feel for night and day but you still want to save some money, get an ocean view.  I would recommend an ocean view for anyone on their first cruise.  It will save you some money, and you can still see the outside world.  Plus the scenery is beautiful!

    The balconies are so relaxing! At any given time you can step out onto your own private balcony and enjoy the fresh air without the other 3,000 passengers on board.  Just make sure you get your door closed good!  One night, about 2 AM our door came flying open when we hit a wave.  Talk about scaring the crap out of ya!  Again if you smoke, this is another area that you can smoke without having to go to the casino or pool.  The picture below is the view out of our Carnival Magic Corner Balcony.

    The suites!  Oh how I love the suites! They are good for families who want a little extra privacy from the kids!  We did an ocean suite on the last cruise and we even had a door between the kid’s room and ours!  It was WONDERFUL!!!! 

    Now that you have chosen a room, what’s next?  Well once you get on board, your food, non-alcoholic drinks (excluding soda) and all the shows you could possibly want to go to is all free!!! YAY! Go have fun! The restaurants are all you can eat!  So say you want to be like little Mr. Jeramiah who ordered 3 servings of Escargot in the dinner dining room.  Yup, they will keep bringing it until you are stuffed to the gill!!  I love the lobster, not one but two!   Oh and don't forget about room service!  Mr. Maison was soooo tired and mad that I was taking his picture but he just had to have that toasted peanut butter and jelly before bed.   Check out other dining options here.

    The very last financial thing you HAVE to plan for is gratuities.  They will be billed to your room the second day of your cruise.  There are a few events where you can get free drinks, like the Art Auction and the Liquor tasting.  Go do all the free stuff you can!!  Also take advantage of the spa raffle because who knows, you might win a great spa treatment.  At the very least you will get some great discounts if that’s something your interested in.

    Want to take your dining to another level?  Some of the boats have a steak house. The food is extraordinary! They go above and beyond.    The steak house, the coffee shop, and shake spot are a few things on the boat that cost a little extra.  They are nothing you have to do.  After all there is unlimited ice cream by the pool, regular and deaf coffee in the lido deck dinning rooms, and food around almost every corner.  They are just a little treat if you want something special.

    So we have kind of figured out the cost or at least by this point you should know where to start.  What’s next? 

    When you walk on board first thing you need to do is grab a schedule.  They will be handing these out the second you step on the boat or you can find them in the coffee shop on the counter. These are printed daily so you don’t miss any of the awesome fun events! Take advantage of everything FREE in the specialty shops.  There will be a spa raffle, generally about 5 PM the day you walk on the boat.  If you have any interest at all in the spa, GO!  The raffle is free and they hand out incredible prizes! Plus, if you don’t win one of the prizes you will at least get coupons to make your spa experience a little cheaper. 

    Taking kids?  Camp Carnival ROCKS!  You can sign up and fill out the forms at home or you can fill them out on the boat.  I have noticed a lot of times the camp carnival sign up on the boat is the same time as the spa raffle, do the spa raffle because you can go back to camp carnival at another time to get the kids signed up. 

    There is also a shopping seminar.  If you want to buy anything in port, go check it out!  They hand out coupons to get free gifts in port and just like the spa raffle; they are always giving free stuff away at any of the “info” type shows.

    Not a big drinker but want to have a taste here and there?  Check out the Champaign Art Auction and the Liquor tasting. Want to drink on the boat?  On specific boats you can buy a package where you get unlimited alcoholic drinks every day! You can even wait until halfway through the cruise to get it and save a little cash.  If you plan on drinking more than 4 or 5 a day, I recommend it because it will save you money in the long run.  They also have an endless bubbles package where you can do the same thing and get soda.  But heck why not get the alcohol one and have the best of both worlds. 

    So we have the boat covered but what about the ports?

    Carnival offers so many different ports the opportunities are endless! If your one of my local readers I will tell you that New Orleans and Galveston are about the same drive time and New Orleans boats are a little bit cheaper. 



    Jamaica was our biggest disappointment.  It has always been a dream of mine to go there so we were really excited!  Do an excursion, simple as that.  If you go, do something that is well organized.  If the excursions aren't really for you and you would rather shop, carry small amounts of cash.  Without an excursion, Jamaica really isn’t a place I would take my children.  The sidewalks are narrow and the traffic is FAST!  The picture to the left was in Jamaica.  The guy was really nice wanted to take a picture with us and then he wasn't so nice after I told him he could not have my shoes.  My shoes!! REALLY???  Just be careful...

    Cozumel is pretty safe and there is a lot to do!  We have been several times and feel like we really know the island.  Pick up a bottle of the vanilla it’s unlike anything you will ever get here in the states.  IF you like fast fun try the twister boats shore excursions that you can book through Carnival. 

    Progresso Mexico: you either want to do an excursion, stay on the boat or not venture to far.  If you’re feeling witty go into town on the buss it is an experience to see the low levels of poverty but don’t carry more than $20 and carry those in small bills and in different pockets.  The town is still not really developed but they are getting there.  It will take time I'm sure.  This is another country that there really isn't much to do unless you book an excursion through the boat.

    Camen Islands: Are BEAUTIFUL!!!!  They are like shopping in Key West which is another one of my favorite ports!  I really felt safe and peaceful in the Camen islands. 

    Nassau Bahamas:  I’ve been to Atlantis; it’s an experience and something everyone needs to do at least once.  But if your saving cash, you can walk about a mile or so to a free beach that absolutely BEAUTIFUL and clean!  But it’s just a little far from the main shopping area. 

     Just got on the boat.  GOODBYE CLOUDY SKYS!

     Yup they were tired of me taking pics.

    Honey & Jeramiah

      Dream on little man, dream on!

     Dad, a dancer, and Jeramiah.

      Dad even got on stage and performed!
    Cruising is the way to go!  In 2012 we were able to afford to take our entire family including grandchildren and my parents.  We could never have done that to simply go and stay at a hotel for a week.   We all had so much fun I cant wait to do it again!