When it comes to vacations, time can be as much of a vacation roadblock as money. Kids at every age (even pre-school) have school and extracurricular activities. Parents have work and day-to-day parenting commitments, and grandparents are more active than ever with more of them working past retirement age and having busy social lives.
Ironically, the families who are the most hyper programmed are the ones who need a vacation the most. Celebrity Cruises addresses this issue with customized weekend itineraries from one to four nights that dovetail out of its most popular routes, from Mexico and the Caribbean to the Pacific Northwest and the Eastern Seaboard.
According to Cody Phillips, cruise programs and guest activities, the beauty of the cruise line’s programming and custom-planning approach for families is a sort of “a-la-carte” system that ensures members of all ages and generations come away from a short break feeling as relaxed, connected and entertained as they can with a longer vacation.
“When I vacationed with my family as a kid, there was always somebody who was not fully satisfied,” recalls Phillips. “For example, when the family went to the pool, there was always (a sibling) who did not want to be there but was too young to go off on his own adventure. Or at night, when they went to the resort’s restaurant, the menu was not to the liking of all the family members given different food preferences.”
In addition to buffets, a myriad of restaurants, live entertainment from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., and kids and teen clubs with trained supervision, the ship offers a hearty menu of shore excursions and on-board activities. Parents can mix and match together an itinerary with an on-board concierge who can recommend activities that are age-appropriate and attuned to individual interests. However, Phillips suggests staging a “crew meeting” with your family before booking the voyage.
“Familiarize yourself with our website, and round up the family to discuss such basics as where (which destination route) they want to cruise, what they want to do during the cruise, food preferences, and so on,” he says. “Even in a short four-day period, we want to ensure every traveler will completely disconnect from their everyday lives and on their own terms, whether he is 3, 17, 27, 47, or 67. However, it is also important to us that the family gets quality group time, and family members come away feeling both rested and connected to one another.”
Phillips says some of the best “together time moments” come from customized activities that can be arranged through the concierge, from a galley tour and meeting with the executive chef for foodie families who watch The Food Network religiously, to a backstage tour and cast meet-and-greet for kids interested in theater and their parents, to the land excursions the entire family can participate in in historic destinations where they may have ancestral roots or other interests.
“The cruises are scalable, so the time on board allows for unforgettable family moments,” he continues. “In other words, many activities and amenities available on longer cruises are available for shorter journeys including the shows, galley tours, excursions, and other activities. This highlights another advantage of investing in a two- to four-night cruise — it is also a great way for families who have never cruised before to test drive the cruising experience in consideration for longer trips later on.”
The shorter cruise is also an excellent option for families with special needs children (see our “Tips” section for more information). In 2014, Celebrity inaugurated its “Autism ” program for kids 3–17, which features certified trained youth staff, activities crafted for kids at different ability levels, a toy lending catalogue and an emphasis on inclusiveness.
“Rather than put them in a separate program, we make accommodations within our regular activity program so (kids on the spectrum) can experience what the other kids are experiencing,” says Phillips.