There’s lots to do on the water besides stepping onto a cruise ship that still caters to kids and grown-ups alike. Boating vacations require a little planning and research to make sure they meet your children’s needs, but are a rewarding way to see more of the world. From pirate adventures to medieval Croatia, here’s where to take your family on a boating vacation.
Gulf Shores has long attracted family visitors to its shores for its affordability and kid-friendly fun like go-karts and mini golf. But it’s not just a great boating vacation because it’s on the water with opportunities for boating and sailing. The renown Orange Beach Pirate Adventure takes families out on the Alabama Gulf Coast area for a swashbuckling pirate adventure. Young pirates get to defend their ship in a faux battle, sing pirate songs, get their face painted and hear stories of real-life pirate attacks.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Stretching along 40 miles of the eastern Caribbean, the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are known for white sandy beaches, reefs, fishing and boating. Give the kids a history lesson on this island nation made up of 32 islands, with its largest being St. Vincent, featuring unusual black-sand beaches and a 4,000-foot active volcano. Guests can charter a boat or sign up for a tour and island hop to explore everything from botanical gardens to beaches.
Croatia welcomes visitors to glide along its turquoise waters and explore the country’s 1,100 miles of mainland coastline and 1,200 nearby islands. A cruise along Kvarner Bay on the northern coastline is perfect for families looking to get away from the crowds and enjoy some dolphin watching and see uninhabited islands. Or take a history-based cruise with Voyages of Antiquity to learn more about the castles and cathedrals of Croatia to turn your trip into an edutourism opportunity.
Located in Southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park features the deepest lake in the United States and offers volcano boat cruises for physically fit families. Hiking about one mile down (and back) to a boat dock is required before embarking for an afternoon boating inside a volcano full of water to see a totally unique geological experience. You’ll also get an overview of Wizard and Ghost Ship Islands where hikers are rewarded with a glimpse of Witch’s Cauldron.
The Danube and Rhine Rivers
Whether you adore big-brand cruises or avoid them altogether, a small river cruise is the perfect way to view the Danube and Rhine Rivers to see more of Europe. You can book your own river cruise or opt for Adventures by Disney River Cruise that takes care of every detail and knows exactly how to anticipate and cater to family’s needs. Families get a cultural immersion experience including ziplining in the Black Forest, touring apricot farms and visiting medieval castles in an all-inclusive experience. Although you won’t see Mickey and Minnie on your adventure, you do get that ridiculous attention to detail that Disney offers.
Zermatt’s colorful ski boutique-lined Bahnhofstrasse, stylish apartment-style lodgings of every description and views of the Matterhorn from every angle make up one of Europe’s most family-friendly destinations — and it certainly does not hurt that it is proclaimed the “world’s best ski resort” by organizations like SnowOnline.com year after year. During the warmer months, meanwhile, you will see many family groups with kids strolling the shopping streets (sometimes alongside a herd of about 50 free-range Valais Blackneck goats around 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.), enjoying fondue and pizza at nearby cafés, and taking advantage of the many hiking and bike trails.
In a recent survey by Orbitz, 63 percent of millennial travelers said the hotel amenity they'd like to see more of is plants in hotel rooms. The same number said they seek plant-filled spaces and activities on vacation, including parks and botanical gardens.
The movies and cruise vacations actually have a lot in common: fascinating ports of call, making friends with interesting people, new sensory experiences, the constant change of scenery. When you think about it, it’s no surprise many classic comedies and romances are set aboard cruise ships, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) with Marilyn Monroe, Royal Wedding (1951), An Affair to Remember (1957) with Cary Grant, the more recent and kid-friendly Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, and the long-running television series Love Boat.