Cruising with Children
By Bruce Pickett
Up until a few years ago, the words "cruise vacation" and "children" were seldom uttered together, and if they were, it was usually during a discussion of who would babysit while the parents went on a cruise. Most people would not even consider taking their children on a cruise vacation, and those few brave souls who did were often viewed with disbelief.
Those days are gone. Family cruise vacations have exploded in popularity, with more and more cruise lines catering specially to the needs of families with children of all ages. Now when it comes to cruising with children, your choices are many and your biggest challenge will likely be choosing from the amazing selection of cruise options.
The first step to successful cruising with children begins with the planning. Include your children in the planning process as much as possible; after all, it is a family vacation and the trip will go much better if everyone has had at least some input from the start. Set an expectation up front that adults will make the final decisions but that everyone in the family will have some input.
A child's input will be limited by their age, but even the youngest kids can have a role in cruise planning. You should do the initial homework to determine which cruises fit your budget and then sit down with your children to discuss the options. Research potential ports of call at the library or on the internet, and talk with a travel agent who specializes in cruising.
With research in hand, let each person in the family write down the two or three things that are most important to him or her. These things might be a specific port of call, an onboard activity, an onshore excursion, or some other attribute of the ship and its amenities. Once everyone has submitted their suggestions, work together to plan a cruise that combines as many of the ideas as possible so that each person gets at least one thing included that is important to them.
Expect the unexpected
No vacation ever unfolds completely as planned, and a family cruise vacation is no exception. Be flexible and allow for delayed airline flights, bad weather, long layovers, and the other common problems that can arise when traveling. Take along complete contact information for your travel agent, the cruise line, and the port agent, just in case you get lost, run late, or even miss the boat's departure from a port of call. The ship will not wait for you so it is critical that you know whom to contact in a pinch.
If you have to fly to your cruise departure point, avoid checking your baggage if at all possible. Opt for carry on luggage if you can, just to avoid the risk of you and your suitcase being separated somewhere along the way. If you must check baggage, be sure to pack a carry on bag for each person that contains one full change of clothes, toiletries, and any necessary medications.
Balance family time and adult time
Once you are onboard, strike a balance between family time spent together and adults-only time. Take advantage of shipboard activities and supervised children's centers to get away from the kids for a while. Chances are they will love getting away from you, too, and their vacation experience will be much more memorable if they can participate in the kid-focused activities that most cruise lines now offer. You get the benefit of adult time to take that moonlight stroll, have a romantic dinner, or just lounge on deck with a good book.
During your time together as a family, though, make it a priority to play with your kids and have fun. Do some shipboard activities together, play in the swimming pool, let yourself relax and let go of the "parent" role for just a little while. It will be refreshing for you, enjoyable for your kids, and make your vacation that much more memorable.
About The Author
Bruce Pickett is enthusiastic in helping people to plan cruise vacations for both new & repeat cruisers. Learn 5 essential facts about why cruising is such a great bargain. Receive free cruise newsletters & a free contest at www.fivestarcruising.net.