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Carnival Splendor: Stranded At Sea With Your Child

I’m happy to report that I have zero anecdotes about vacation horror stories when it comes to traveling with JD (unless you count him freaking out the first time I tried to bathe him at a hotel). We have fun, fun, fun! Take a peek:

Our last big trip was a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas with our friends Matt and Maddy. It was my first cruise and I was a little nervous. Luckily, it was, for the most part, smooth sailing. Nothing like the Carnival Splendor disaster that’s been making headlines all week. Oh man, I’ve been really feeling for the travelers—especially ones with young kids in tow.

MSNBC reports that “The Carnival Splendor left Long Beach on Sunday for a seven-day trip to the Mexican Riviera. The ship was 200 miles south of San Diego and about 44 miles off shore when the engine room fire killed its power.”


The travelers aboard the Carnival Splendor were stranded for four days without power and hot water and the ability to flush the toilet. It was reported that the boat was stuffy and smelled like cigarettes. Hot meals or decent ones no longer existed. Navy planes brought in canned crab, Pop Tarts and (so gross) SPAM. Lines stretched for hours to get some of these treats, too and the ship had open bars (not that most parents could drink away the fact that they were stranded at sea—who would watch their kiddos?)!

When I read about this food selection I immediately thought of the travelers with kids and toddlers who, like-what-they-like and eat-what-they-eat! These days, JD will eat meatballs, breaded or baked chicken, pasta of any kind, fruits and veggies, yogurt, pancakes, cereal, turkey sandwiches, grilled cheese…his menu isn’t that limited, but I can tell you, he wouldn’t eat canned fish or SPAM. Honestly, he probably wouldn’t eat a Pop Tart—he doesn’t like sweet stuff. He eats pancakes with a swipe of butter and NO syrup. I guess if he was starving, he might eat what was offered, but really, I doubt it.

Since there was no power, there was obviously no milk, another JD staple. He drinks at least 16 ounces if not more a day. I feel crappy and anxious when JD doesn’t clean his breakfast plate on days that he has school, so I have no idea how I’d react if he refused food for days on a disabled ship in the middle of the ocean. Lord!

An upside that popped into my head when I was imagining myself stranded on this ship with JD (and please, readers, if you don’t do this already, do it!) is that whenever we travel I pack tons of snacks like Cheerios, pretzels, animal crackers and raisins. In my experiences with JD, sometimes a snacker can curb a meltdown, so I never leave home without a sippy cup and snack options (I keep mini bags of Goldfish and pretzels in my Jeep).

Aside from the food situation, I also started to think about maintaining a level of calm and composure for the welfare of JD. Look, I’d panic, but I know I’d have that moment and seal it away. If I learned anything about single motherhood, motherhood at all, it’s that you have to keep your cool and move forward. I actually think keeping JD occupied on a stranded ship would be easier than feeding him. He’s 3! The other day, I flung a blanket over two breakfast bar stools and told him to play in the tent. He was thrilled, delighted! He asks me every, single day now, to make a tent! I usually pack books when we travel, but I’m also the master of making up stories and using voices that totally engage JD. Sometimes I’ll say “And the mouse opened the fridge and pulled out a…” JD will scream “yogurt drink!” I imagined us taking walks on this stranded boat, making new friends (JD befriended a little girl visiting from The Netherlands at the park yesterday), coloring (again, I always pack activities) and just getting to the next day. I’d make being stranded an adventure. I’d tell JD the boat’s engine needs gas and oil and the Pit Crew from Cars was on the way—and he’d buy it and think it was coooo-wool!

There’s a lot more devastation going on in the world, so I know for certain that yes, being stranded on a boat would suck, but it would make me stronger. Something I really love about single motherhood is that I have the power and duty to create a safe, loving world for JD, no matter the circumstances. And I do it well.

Thankfully, CBS News is reporting that “After four days with no electricity across hundreds of miles of open ocean, the journey for more than 3,000 passengers aboard the Carnival Splendor cruise ship coming to an end this morning in San Diego. The ship has reached the city's harbor, but is expected to take another two hours to dock.” 

Do you have any vacation horror stories to share? What types of kid-friendly things do you pack that might have helped your family out if you were on the Carnival Splendor? Does this news change the way you feel about cruising with your family? (JD and I are headed on an adventure this March! Not a cruise, though.)