Guest Author - Lisa Shea
If you're taking children on a cruise, it is critical that you work out beforehand a plan for keeping them fed. Hungry kids = cranky kids.
First, make a list of all food vendors on the cruise - from the fanciest restaurants to the little bars and burger stands. Most cruise line websites offer menus online for you to determine what each one serves. Sit down with your child and discuss the options. While you as an adult may look at food as an experience in itself, to savor the flavors, many kids see eating as a necessary but boring break in a fun day. They just want to get those chicken nuggets into them and get back to the swimming.
Next, it's important to remember that a child's emotional state of mind is very tied to his or her food intake. If a child gets hungry or thirsty, they can get cranky and tired - but not be mature enough yet to realize *why* they are cranky. It is your job as an adult to take regular breaks for snacks and liquids. If you make them short breaks, the kids shouldn't mind, and it will keep them fueled for their high levels of energy.
Also, children have small stomachs that fill and empty quickly. The extremely slow pace of a formal dinner may cause them to be starving at the beginning - but stuffed and bored for the second half of the meal.
Yes, you probably want to have your own, fancy experiences. But one of the trade-offs of being a parent is that you need to put your responsibility for your child first. If your child loves fancy dress-up and is by nature quiet, you could always give them a snack first, and then have the dinner with them where the slow pace will not make them starve. If your child is naturally energy-filled and would not sit still for 2 hours, it might be far better to let them have the burgers they enjoy, and then send them to the Kid's Club or a sitter so they can splash, romp and play while you enjoy your leisurely meal.
If you have two adults, and you're going to have the child in a mature situation, then elect a 'watcher' for each meal. Children have a built in tolerance level for quiet based on how they have been raised / trained up to that point and their own nature. If the child simply doesn't want to sit still in a given situation, then the watcher should take the child somewhere they can spend that energy. We adults often forget what it's like to be bubbling with energy. We get used to being sedentary. Rather than yell at a child for having natural, child energy, we should give them healthy outlets to use the energy in. The more a child stays active and happy in their younger years, the more likely they will to be healthy, active and happy as they grow up!
So to summarize, spending family time together is an admirable desire - and a key reason that many of us parents take our kids on cruises! However, to make the cruise enjoyable for the child, parents and for other passengers, it's important to plan out which events are best for all together, and which are best for certain family members on their own. A cruise is supposed to be a relaxing vacation for everyone involved. If you want your kids to enjoy a formal dinner, make sure you train them in the behavior expected *before* the cruise, by taking them out often to practice. If they enjoy the experience, then congratulations! You and the kids will have a blast putting those skills to use in the real situation. If your kids simply are bored by a fancy dinner or are not yet mature enough to last the 2 hours in happy quiet, then accept that. Your kids are going to grow up quickly enough on their own. There's no reason to push them into a maturity they are not yet ready for.
Children in a Cruise Ship Dining Room