Taking Children on a Cruise
Imagine a vacation where someone not only cleans your room twice a day but picks up after the kids. Imagine they can order whatever they like to eat — and as much as they like — at no extra charge. Imagine guaranteed-to-please activities, whether the kids are 4 or 14.
Welcome to the world of cruising.
The best part: You can easily stay within budget and bring the grandparents along without any trouble. (Kids 11 and younger cruise free on select MSC sailings and those 17 and under sail free on select Crystal cruises, as long as they share a cabin with two adults, for example)
If you are one of those people who has sworn you’d never set foot on a cruise ship, perhaps it’s time to think again. In fact, more than 60 percent of family travelers say they are interested in taking a cruise this year.
There’s no better time with appealing deals, new ships, family-oriented itineraries and choices, whether you want a mega-ship with water slides, Broadway quality entertainment, celebrity chef restaurants, a stop at a private island, or an expedition ship where seeing wildlife and active excursions are the focus or river cruises that enable you and your kids to explore a corner of Europe without packing and unpacking. You can also cruise from a port near your home and avoid the hassle and expense of flights. With the help of our cruise partners, we have figured out the best cruise lines for children and what they offer. Just getting back from our conference in Miami – CruiseWorld – we have been fully educated.
What we like best: There is so much to do, especially after the kids have made some new friends, that it’s not necessary to be in lockstep every minute, whether you are on a major ship or a small one. Think of those trips where at the end of the day, you were reduced to staring at each other in a hotel room because the kids couldn’t wander on their own. On a cruise ship, they are perfectly safe, especially with organized activities for the youngest cruisers, as well as tweens and teens.
Whether you are a veteran cruiser or a newbie, here are five tips to get you started:
- Do your research, starting with a site like www.travelkatz.com where you can get tips for cruising in our travel tips section and find deals in the cruising section.
- Work with a travel agent who is a cruise expert. Picking the right cruise line and cabin can be very complicated. A cruise agent can not only talk you through the choices but get you the best deal and often some extra perks.
- Consider the kids’ ages and interests. If you have preschoolers in the mix, you don’t want a ship where the kids’ activities start at age five; some ocean camps starts at age 2; Disney has a stand-out nursery for infants, as does Norwegian, though at an extra charge. If you have tweens or teens, look for lines that have separate programs for these groups rather than lumping them together.
- Think hard about whether you want a trip with lots of beach time or sites, as more cruise lines now are offering a variety of itineraries.
- Purchase travel insurance. A cruise is a vacation you pay for in advance. If something happens and you can’t go, you want to be able to get a refund. If someone gets sick or injured along the way (it happens more often than you might think) you don’t want to be saddled with a lot of out-of-pocket expenses.
So, what kind of cruiser is your family?
PRIVATE ISLAND FANTASY: Look to the Caribbean. Norwegian Cruise Line has just unveiled more family-friendly amenities at Great Stirrup Cay, including a zip line course, live music, basketball and volleyball courts and a shaded picnic area. Disney’s Castaway Cay offers you the chance to bike, interact with native stingrays, kayak or sail, among the offerings.
SHARING A SMALL SHIP ADVENTURE perhaps in the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Conservancy is a good resource. We’ve done expedition cruises around the world (most recently in Antarctica with Abercrombie and Kent — more about that in an upcoming column) gotten close to calving glaciers in Alaska with Un-Cruise Adventures and photographed polar bears from the ship in the Arctic on a Lindblad-National Geographic Expedition.
DISCOVER HIDDEN EUROPEAN GEMS on a RIVER CRUISE. Travelers can appreciate not having to pack and unpack at every port while getting to see Europe beyond its major capitals. Kids up to 17, cruise half price on select Uniworld Generations departures. The adventure company Backroads reports that its Family and Active River Cruise trips, in partnership with AMA Waterways, are a top trending destination. Imagine cruising from Paris to Normandy or Budapest to Prague with all of the meals and excursions included.
Call TravelKatz at 352-277-7300 to begin your planning for the next cruise with your family.