Choosing a family cruise seems simple enough — just pick your next vacation destination, browse cruise line prices and availability and pick your favorite, right? Well, yes and no.
Once you know where you want to go, it’s important to know what amenities your family expects and deems most important. Whether you’re an excursion family, looking to get off the boat and explore your surroundings as soon as possible; a sun-soaking crew, all about the beaches and pool-side offerings; or all about the onboard amenities, including restaurants and nightlife, the cruising industry has a plethora of options. Map out your cruise vacation and get the most out of your getaway with a cruise specific to your family’s wants and need.
River or Ocean?
First up, choose what kind of cruise you want. With a growing list of incredible river cruise itineraries, the destination competition is steep. While a river cruise may feel like more of a floating hotel, taking you from one amazing destination to the next, expect plenty of off-ship excursions; incredible, authentic dining; sightseeing; and immersive cultural experiences. River cruises tend to be more for the families seeking luxury stays in stunning destinations, with plenty of freedom to explore both land and sea, while getting in a mix of cultures and activities.
Ocean cruises have many of the same tour offerings, but typically offer less time on land and are limited to specific ports and private islands. Your family can still enjoy the fine dining, shopping, kid’s clubs, spa days and family-friendly exploring, but typically more aboard the ship as they tend to stay at sea longer. This, of course, means your ship will likely be decked out with all the extras, like self-serve ice cream corners for the kids, nightly activities like live shows and movies, as well as flexibility for all ages and interests. This option is tailored to the family that wants to split up and explore and meet for dinner, or stick together and soak up the all-inclusive lifestyle and built-in fun and entertainment onboard.
Where to Go?
If your family has a specific destination in mind, like the wild terrain of Antarctica or Alaska, the majestic coastline of the Mediterranean or Eastern Europe, or the soft, sandy beaches of the Caribbean, Bahamas or British Virgin Islands, choosing a cruise line becomes much simpler.
If your family needs more time and information to decide where the cruise will take them, consider shopping around by vessel. Put your attention toward the amenities, services and experiences you’ll have onboard, especially if one destination isn’t particularly swaying you.
This question can sneak up on you. Not everyone may do as well at sea as the next family member, so keep that in mind before booking a week-long cruise vacation.
If you’re unsure how your family will do out on the water, book a shorter trip, maybe even a short weekend cruise, to test the waters. If you already have a family cruise planned, consider bookending the trip with a few days, either before or after, spent on land exploring the surrounding city. This can help ease your kids on or off the ship and back into reality without rushing home.
Chances are you know South Beach or have heard about the southernmost section of Miami Beach — 23rd Street to South Pointe Park. It’s the historic Art Deco district with stunning white and pastel buildings lining Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and beyond.
Tucked into the central coast of California is a trail of history waiting to be found by your kids. The Highway 1 Discovery Route through San Luis Obispo County snakes along the winnowy Pacific Coast Highway, CA-1, between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The more than 100 miles of mostly protected coastline begins after a four-hour drive from San Francisco at Ragged Point, or about three hours from Los Angeles at Nipomo. The trail features 10 cities, connected by cliffs, carved by a moody ocean, and a slower pace of life. There are plenty of reasons to stop and walk into the past, preserved by those whose hearts still live there. Nature lovers will linger on the many trails to hike and picnic areas. We drove from Los Angeles with two 9-year-old boys to explore this part of the state.
Raising a budding Julia Child or Jacques Pépin? Or just looking for a more interactive family activity? Register your family (or kids) for a cooking class at the Culinary Institute of America.
While urban wine country might sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually a reality at the stunning City Vineyard in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. The water-side venue is the perfect host for your next event — whatever that may be, from 20 to 200 guests and from cocktail party to plated dinner.
If walking through a winter wonderland is still on your family’s list of things to do this season, Maine can definitely help check that box. By this time of year, Maine is almost certainly covered with snow and awaiting the arrival of winter lovers and outdoor adventurers alike.