Cruising is among the best ways to see a region’s highlights without the hassle of driving, foreign languages or changing hotels. But veteran cruise passengers often get a lot more value from their experience than first-time cruisers simply because they know the ropes.
Before choosing a ship or itinerary for your family, learn the basics of cruising to find the best value, see the best places and make the most of the shipboard experience.
Look for the Real Value of a Cruise
Free airfare and shore excursions mean big savings, especially if the cruise line doesn’t ordinarily offer them. These bonuses are often added to attract passengers on less popular sailing dates or fill empty cabins close to departure. Ask if some sailing dates include free air or other perks not normally included that represent real savings. Compare costs with and without airfare packages to be sure it’s a better deal than making separate air arrangements. But be sure the cost of getting from the airport to the ship, normally included in packages, doesn’t eat up any savings.
Consider whether all-inclusive ships, including alcoholic drinks, are a real savings — for those who drink sparingly, the added cost of these cruises might not be. Tipping adds significantly to the cost of a cruise. Know if tips are discretionary, added on to your bill automatically, or if the ship has a no-tip policy.
Read the Fine Print About Destinations
What is the purpose of your cruise? If it is to have family time together in a different place with lots of activities, the destination and shore stops don’t matter so much. But if it’s to combine this with real-time travel experiences, then details of port stops matter a lot. Be sure they are places you really want to see and interest your family members.
Check the Fine Print for How Long the Ship is in Port — and Time of Day
A three-hour stop in a major port may barely be time enough to get off the ship before it’s time to re-board. Consider what time the ship arrives and leaves. A stop late in the day may arrive after museums and attractions close. An overnight stay departing early in the morning may leave little useable time. Some cruise lines cut docking costs by arriving at less-popular hours when other ships have left, but they can still list the port on the itinerary.
Know the Real Value of a Shore Excursion
Before booking expensive shore excursions, do a little research to learn the sightseeing alternatives. With more than three people it’s often less expensive to hire a private English-speaking guide with a car — you can reserve these easily in advance. Or take a taxi — there are always plenty waiting at the docks and you can arrange with the driver to pick you up for the return. These details are often as simple as looking at a map on the internet. Remember many shore excursions are just bus rides past the sights without entering — your kids would rather actually explore a place than drive past.
Even more families and avid travelers are taking to the open road this year, seeking the great outdoors and wide-open spaces — can you blame them? Following this trend, Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott International's frequent-stay program, knows its audience and is partnering with the National Park Foundation to offer benefits and discounts for loyalty members and nature lovers alike, as well as an easy roadmap to discovering our nation’s parks.
With technology advancing faster than ever, children globally are becoming attached to devices. Adults too. Our Netflix queue and ever-expanding inbox call our names even when we’re on vacation. We carry distractions with us everywhere, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to truly connect with your loved ones.
Fall is in the air! Leaves are changing color and the weather is starting to get cooler. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I get to experience all four seasons and fall is easily my favorite. There is just something about all the colors and activities that come along with the season, especially in Pennsylvania.
Most museums tend to be boring for children — they have to be quiet, they may not be interested in the exhibits and they can’t touch anything. At the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, kids are encouraged to run around, play and have fun while learning. The beloved museum will safely reopen in 2021 for kids and families to run, play and touch exhibits as they used to, and now is a great time to plan a visit next year.
This summer, family travel at The Peninsula receives an upgrade with the debut of Camp Peninsula, a children’s experience that recreates the spirit of camping right in the heart of Beverly Hills. The journey begins with a special welcome from Peter Bear, the hotel’s lovable mascot, at check-in. After taking a picture with the life-sized teddy bear, kids will be whisked away by a Peninsula Camp Counselor to a luxurious guestroom where a charming teepee awaits. An afternoon of camp-themed games and activities, including a hotel-wide scavenger hunt, rounds off the family-friendly experience, fun for children of all ages. Whether it’s a luxe staycation or an extended holiday, Camp Peninsula is an ideal way to ensure the little ones are happy campers.
We’ve seen our fair share (and then some) of drama, trials and tribulations this year, so any reason to celebrate or plan a trip is an exciting opportunity. For the chocolate lovers and sweet aficionados in your crew, Zürich should be on your list this year or next — for many reasons, but specifically for the Lindt Home of Chocolate.