Cruises offer families a great vacation. But you must choose the right sailing. Years ago, before our first voyage, we worried that we’d come home fat, bored and broke. Instead, we enjoyed one of our best family vacations. We’ve been cruising ever since. Here are some tips to find the ship of your family’s dreams.
Be sure the ship and the sailing you book has a kids' program for your age children.
The best children’s programs divide kids into appropriate age groups.
For example, Princess Cruises groups junior passengers into three distinct groups: Princess Pelicans, ages 3-7; Shockwaves, ages 8-12; and Remix for teens 13-17.
A separate teen center encourages participation by teens. Many—not all—Carnival, RCI, NCL and Princess’ ships offer these facilities as do the Disney ships.
When traveling with little kids, look for a program that operates in port. This gives you the flexibility to spend the morning exploring with your children, then go scuba diving or serious shopping without your kids. At Princess Cays, Princess Cruises’ private Bahamian beach stop, Pelicans Perch offers a supervised place for kids to play.
With three or more children look for family suites or five-person cabins.
Ask about single parent, senior rates, group pricing for family reunions, and reduced or free rates for children on some sailings.
Pick the right destination. Do your kids crave beaches? Are they too little to appreciate Europe’s museums? Do your teens demand action—surfing, swimming and gliding on zip lines through a rain forest or do they want to taste a French croissant in Paris, see Venice’s canals and explore a real castle in Stockholm’s Old Town?
Stretch your budget by boarding at a port within an easy drive of your home town. That way you not only avoid the extra cost of airfare for a family, which can be considerable, but you also avoid the hassles that come with airports. Cruises depart from many cities and not just Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. Look at ships departing from Baltimore, Boston, New York City, New Orleans, Galveston, San Diego, L.A. and other U.S. ports.
Since our first cruise, my family has sailed on many cruises. Cruising frees families like ours from the typical vacation nemeses of packing, unpacking and schlepping suitcases and children on long drives. Since the up-front price covers accommodations, food, entertainment and programs for children and teens, a cruise is easy to budget—as long as you set a limit for the extras. These include drinks, shore tours, specialty restaurants and spa treatments.
Pick the ship and the departure that’s best for your family and you will enjoy a vacation you’ll remember for all the right reasons.