Are the school holidays already beginning to feel like a distant memory? If you’ve been thinking about a cruise holiday for your next big family adventure, we have a few tips to ensure that everyone has a great time.
The immense variety of cruise holidays on offer can feel overwhelming at first, so start by considering factors such as destination, duration, budget and style of holiday. Are you looking for a mid-winter tropical escape (South Pacific, Bahamas, Caribbean), a hassle-free way European jaunt (Mediterranean or Baltic) or an unforgettable wildlife experience (Amazon, Galapagos or Alaska). Choose a ship that caters to your family group with features such as family-friendly shore excursions and kids’ pools. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Carnival Cruise, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Princess Cruises are all renowned for amazing, family-friendly cruises.
Including your kids in the decision-making process is a great way to get them engaged and excited about their holiday. Show them pictures or videos of staterooms, onboard facilities and ports of call, watch a movie that features your cruise destination, introduce them to the local cuisine or teach them a few simple words and phrases in the local language. Shore excursions can often be booked prior to departure – put each family member in charge of a different day and see what adventures arise!
Family-friendly cruise lines have really lifted their game in recent years in terms of fun activities and entertainment for kids of all ages. From go-kart tracks and ziplining to waterslides and splash zones, your biggest challenge might be luring them ashore. Many cruise lines offer babysitting services as well as age-specific kids clubs – indispensable if you’re hoping to enjoy the occasional date night or spa appointment during your holiday.
Every parent knows that the best-laid plans will sometimes be hijacked by a tiny tyrant or truculent teenager with mutiny on their mind. That’s why, as tempting as it may be to fill each day with onboard activities and shore excursions, it’s a good idea to allocate some downtime in your schedule. If you’re travelling with younger kids, a few toys, books or colouring activities, along with plenty of water and some snacks, in your day pack will be worth their weight in gold should you find yourselves waiting for a bus or in need of an impromptu time-out.
No-one has a good time when they’re feeling hangry, so once aboard it’s a good idea to figure out the dining options early on – many ships feature buffet-style as well as à la carte and fine-dining restaurants. It’s also well worth looking into the various drink packages offered by many cruise lines – there are few better ways to mark the end of another great day than with sundowners for the entire family.
Travelling can take its toll on even the most seasoned traveller, so if your cruise departure point is not close to home, try to add an extra day at either end of your holiday to allow for any unexpected delays or schedule changes and reduce the effect of jet lag. Tired kids don’t like to be rushed: building a little extra time into your itinerary will serve as a buffer for those instances when somebody needs an extra minute (or an unscheduled comfort stop).
Your choice of stateroom can greatly impact the enjoyment of your holiday: an inside cabin with bunks for four can be a great option if you’re planning to spend all your time onboard enjoying the ship’s public spaces and you just need a comfy bed in which to lay your head. However, upgrading your stateroom to a pair of connecting rooms or a family suite will provide more space, a window or balcony from which to enjoy the views and maybe even an additional bathroom (have you tried sharing a bathroom with teenagers?). A balcony also provides extra space for when little ones are sleeping, plus it’s the ideal spot to watch the comings and goings of each port you visit. Some cruise lines also offer interconnecting rooms that are a great option for extended family groups.
When choosing the location of your stateroom, consider its proximity to the onboard facilities you are most likely to use, such as the buffet restaurant, the swimming pool or the kids club. Most cruise lines will happily cater to the specific needs of your family unit, such as mobility-friendly rooms, wheelchair assistance, cots or highchairs be sure to request these in advance of your departure.
One of our favourite aspects of a cruise holiday is that you don’t have to keep repacking your bags each time you move on to a new port of call – just settle in and enjoy. Packing for a family holiday is all about finding that balance between well-equipped and overloaded: don’t forget to include comfy shoes for onshore exploring and a warm jacket for star gazing.
One of the most common concerns people have when it comes to kids and cruise holidays is, “will they get seasick?” If members of your family are prone to motion sickness, your pharmacist or doctor can recommend a variety of medications to help manage this, and many cruise ships also have an onboard infirmary where you can seek help.
No matter how badly your kids want to recreate Leo and Kate’s ‘king of the world’ moment at the bow of the Titanic, it’s essential to their safety (and your sanity) that they understand and follow the ship’s rules.
For more inspiration or to start planning your family cruise holiday, talk to your personal travel manager or find one that specialises in Cruise Travel.