Tips for Cruising With Children
Parents want a cruise vacation that doesn’t leave them stressed out and exhausted. They don’t want to worry that Junior is going to whine, be bored, throw a tantrum, bother the other passengers or not find anything he wants to eat on the menu. Cruises geared towards families with children are a great solution to this dilemma. The staff deals with fussy babies, sullen teens and everything in between, week in and week out. Nothing a pint-sized guest does will surprise them. Another bonus is that most of the other passengers have the same worries and won’t notice the ruckus, let alone be bothered by it. Our oldest daughter had taken 3 cruises by the time she was a year old. (Nothing like running out of formula in the middle of the Caribbean :)) So, what else should you consider before cruising with children?
1. Think Big: Parents and cruise directors alike know that kids get bored easily and need lots of stuff to do. A small ship may not be the best choice for children because there are naturally fewer options, but a mega ship, with a full time cruise director, will offer a wealth of options. Most larger cruise ships have multiple kids rooms for cruising kids. Even smaller cruise ships can offer great programming for the kids. Even on a boat like the American Queen, which caters to an older crowd, the dozen or so kids onboard had the run of the ship with all the popcorn and candy they could eat.
2. Teen Scene: Parents of teens should make sure there are plenty of “older” activities such as an Internet café, video games, and even a teen-friendly disco or night club.Find out what your kids are interested in, and check to make sure your cruise can meet the grade.
3. Childcare: Check with the cruise line before you book. Some offer childcare programs during the day and babysitting services at night; some don’t. If a break, without kids, is part of your vacation agenda, you need to pick the right ship. Most kids rooms require that the kid be potty trained. Individual babysitting is usually available from staff members on their off time. Most are $8-10/hr – 3 hour minimum.
4. Disney: It goes without saying that a cruise with Disney is a sure-fire hit with smaller children. The Disney team are experts at keeping kids smiling. Be sure to pack your Disney princess outfits from last Halloween. Your child now has an excuse to wear them one last time. Note that where Disney Cruise line excels with activities for kids, they sacrifice the casino so don’t expect to gamble on the Disney cruise.
5. Cabins: Be realistic. If you are trying to save money, don’t think that you can cram your family of five into a tiny, windowless cabin. If there is one bathroom and a teenage girl or two, your family may not survive the trip. Two adjoining rooms will keep you sane, net you an extra bathroom and is much cheaper than a king-sized suite. You may be able to get 5 individuals in some of the suites. My kids used to like the suites with closets because some have a bed in them that makes a great fort for the the 10 and under crowd.
6. Destinations: Have a family planning session. It can be a great opportunity to get together as a family and compromise. Once a general destination is agreed upon, have each child be in charge of picking one excursion. You can also let each child research an area or activity and contribute their findings to the meeting. Memories can be made just from the shared experience of planning a family vacation. Remember that strollers and many tourist destinations don’t go well together. And if a 4 year old is going to be doing a lot of walking, you are probably going to end up doing a lot of carrying. Europe is best for children over the age of 5. The Caribbean with babies is surprisingly easy.
You know your family the best. If you select a trip that appeals to their interests, the cruise line’s staff will take care of the rest. Whether your child is addicted to hot dogs or has to have a chocolate chip cookie before bed, the pros will know what to do.