We started taking cruises as soon as we could after we had our first child. Prior to that we took long bus and train trips across Europe, drove through the US and flew back and forth to Asia a few times, because we love to travel. But with a toddler we wanted to find an easier way to travel, to enjoy exploring new cities and also a way to enjoy the trip itself. Cruising with small children may sound a bit overwhelming, but we have all really enjoyed it. Here are some things we learned along the way:
1) Make sure your cruise is kid friendly – there are a LOT of options out their for families, but you want to make sure you are booking a family friendly cruise and not a romantic couple cruise where you might not feel so welcome. I was afraid this would mean ten years of Disney cruises (nothing against Disney, but it isn’t really my style). But many of the other cruising companies offer quality options for kids as well. The best thing to do is talk with a travel agency directly to confirm.
2) Age appropriate activities – Check out what there is to do for kids both on board the boat and on the tours. By this I don’t just mean babysitting and group activities, but fun family activities everyone can do together. We have seen rock climbing, musicals aimed towards a young audience, talent shows, arts and crafts and all sorts of fun activities aimed towards the 4 and up set. For younger kids, there are kiddy pools, play rooms and all types of games. You can always ask ahead about more information and choose the cruise you think might offer you the most chance to enjoy your trip.
3) Babysitting – Many cruises offer a wide variety of babysitting and kids activities for a variety of prices. Carnival cruises, for example, has many kids activities included in the price of a ticket, which make the cruise seem a bit like summer camp. For off hours, private babysitters usually cost a small fee, but can be booked until quite late at night. This is a good way for parents to be able to enjoy some of the nightlife on a cruise, without worrying about their little ones.
4) For teens – For the older set, many cruises offer services aimed at teens. The Queen Elizabeth II has a special teen activity center and many cruises even offer teen excursions, where teens can go off and explore separate from the adults. Teen dance clubs and parties in the evenings can also be a fun activity for older kids.
All in all we have found cruising to be a great way for our family to continue to explore new places.