Thinking about a European family cruise? You’re not the only one. Mediterranean cruises are generating lots of interest among today’s family and multigenerational vacationers.
Here are five tips to help you plan a great Mediterranean cruise vacation with your family.
1. Be Realistic. It's important for parents to be aware that taking a Mediterranean cruise isn't the same as a family cruise in the Caribbean or Mexico. There's a six hour (or more) time difference between U.S. cities and major European destinations. Many of the ports are over an hour away from the cities or attractions you'll be visiting. That can make for long days for kids and teens. Be aware of your children’s interests and what’s appealing to them. Then decide which Mediterranean cruise itinerary is best for your family.
2. Go at the Right Time. If you're planning a summer Mediterranean cruise, be aware that August is the prime vacation month in Europe. Attractions will likely be crowded and the weather can be quite hot in July and August. If it’s possible for your family to cruise in May or June, consider booking during those early season months.
3. Plan It Together. Make sure the kids are involved and get every family member’s input early in the planning process. This will help create buy-in and eliminate a lot of potential problems when you get on the ship. Start by having a family get-together to focus on shared and individual interests. Do you have kids who are obsessed with history & gladiators, volcanoes, pizza, gelato, art, mythology, beaches, shopping, and castles? Do you want your kids to learn about European history, languages and cultures? If so, a family Mediterranean cruise could be just the thing for your next vacation. Use your family's interests to drive your choice of itineraries and ports of call. Talk with a good cruise travel agent to get their suggestions.
4. Choose a Great Embarkation Point. When choosing your cruise itinerary, look for departure cities that have excellent flight connections, good airfare rates, a wide variety of hotel options, and plenty of attractions to explore. This last point is important, because it's a huge plus for families to arrive at their embarkation city a day or two early before their cruise. It's more expensive, but it can save money and add to the enjoyment of your family's cruise. There's a six hour or more time difference between embarkation ports in the Mediterranean and airports in the U.S. and Canada. It takes a while for travelers to adjust to that time zone change, particularly kids and teens. If your kids are jet lagged throughout the first half of your cruise, the experience won’t be as rewarding.
Getting to a Mediterranean cruise port often involves flight connections for many guests. Delays and flight cancellations can be quite common these days. When snafus like that happen, you (and/or your luggage) can miss the ship. Arrive at least one or two days in advance to allow for potential luggage delays.
In addition, major attractions in places like Barcelona, Rome (Civitavecchia) and Venice are tough to cram into just one day. So, spend some extra time there and explore. Norwegian Cruise Line has family-friendly ships in the Mediterranean with itineraries embarking and debarking from these three ports of call. This combination of amenity-laden ships and exciting ports adds up to the perfect European family vacation.
5. Pick the Right Ship. Great family-focused ships offer something for every interest and age group. That’s one of the many reasons why cruising is such an excellent option for a European family vacation. Norwegian Cruise Line has three ships based in the Mediterranean: the Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Spirit, and the Norwegian Jade. All of them are a superb choice for families and multigenerational groups.
Norwegian’s ships have a wide variety of entertainment and dining options, so it’s impossible for anyone to get bored. Adults in particular will enjoy the ships’ many specialty dining options including Cagney’s Steakhouse and Le Bistro, with its delectable French cuisine. Families always love dining at Teppanyaki, where chefs put on a show with their creative Japanese hibachi-style cooking.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s kids and teens programs are one of their strengths. The cruise line offers their Splash Academy youth program on all three of their ships in the Mediterranean. Splash Academy features programs designed specifically for three age groups: Turtles for ages 3-5; Seals for ages 6-9; and Dolphins for ages 10-12. Splash Academy also offers activities for Guppies – tiny cruisers between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. Parents with young children under 3 can enjoy fun events with their child, including sensory play classes and “Motion in the Ocean” parent and tot mini workout sessions.
If you’re traveling with teens, Norwegian Cruise Line is an excellent choice. Their ships are well equipped to cater to older kids as well. Entourage is a high energy zone exclusively for teens ages 13-17. This hot spot keeps teens happy with a wide variety of activities including sports challenges and other events. At night, Entourage turns into a teens-only nightclub with a dance floor, video jukebox, and large screen television.
Norwegian’s “Port Play” program for ages 3-12 often comes in particularly handy during Mediterranean cruises, since days in some ports can be long and quite tiring. Parents who are booked on shore excursions and want to leave their kids onboard the ship can register for the program, enabling them to enjoy their time ashore while their kids play. Group babysitting from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. and “Late Night Fun Zone” activities from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. are also available on a fee-for-services basis.
For more detailed information on Norwegian Cruise Line and its programs for kids and families, visit their website: www.ncl.com.