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Tips to Ensure a Successful Family Cruise Experience

by Felicity Long

Oct 13, 2017

© Solarisys13 | Dreamstime


How is it one family can have a wonderful time on a cruise and another can’t wait for it to be over? Barring illness, rough weather or other unforeseeable hiccups, there are a few things you can do to boost your odds of having a great vacation on the high seas.

Avoid Spring break. Being stuck on a ship with masses of spring breakers is a recipe for disaster for anyone who doesn’t want to party all night, but is especially tough if you are traveling with your children. Cruise lines stepped up efforts to curb under-age drinking and unsupervised crowds of young people, but your best bet still is to pick a different week for your vacation. Remember not every school has the same week off, so consider working with a cruise-only travel agent to pick the best time for you and your family.

Family on Cruise Excursion

© Yuriy Brykaylo | Dreamstime

The same precautions apply to shore excursions. Realize sunset cruises, for example, are typically booze cruises, and while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, it might not be the family-friendly atmosphere you’re looking for. If you’re hoping for a catamaran snorkel outing the whole family will enjoy, for example, do a little research before you book and don’t hesitate to ask for more information at the shore excursion counter.

Speaking of shore excursions, it’s a good idea to pre-book as many of them as possible online before you board. The popular ones often sell out, so if you and the kids have your hearts set on seeing dolphins or ziplining, for example, don’t wait too long to book.

That said, realize you can usually change your mind once on board, as long as you don’t wait until the last minute. If the first snorkel outing didn’t work out for junior, for example, or if the sea seems choppy, check out the shore excursion list to see if there is something you might like better.

Little boy playing mini golf on a family cruise

© Romrodinka | Dreamstime

Compare kids clubs. Check to see how many age groups are catered to, especially if you don’t like the idea of having your 11-year-old hanging with 15-year-olds, for example. On the flip side, is there any flexibility in moving children from group to group? If your children are close in age but are put into separate age group, determine ahead of time if they can stay together, especially if you think that’s important to them. Ask if your children can check themselves in and out or if Mom and Dad need to be on hand for the pick up. There’s no right or wrong philosophy on this, but you know your children best, so make your decision accordingly. Consider how you will stay in touch with your children if they are in the kids club. Today’s cruise lines have become inventive with loaner walkie-talkies and smartphones that help parents and kids stay touch even when they are out of sight. Finally, don’t forget very young and older kids. If your children are infants, are they too young for the kids club? Different ships have different accommodations for babies. And moody teens, who may think they don’t want any part of organized onboard activities, might find themselves wooed by teen-only discos and meet-and-greet sessions to help them break the ice with other older kids.

Don’t overpack. Space in cruise ship staterooms is limited, and today’s ships offer laundry service. Also, unless you specifically want to dress up for formal night, you can leave the ball gown and tiara at home.


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