Cruise vacations offer endless amusement for parents, kids
A cruise is like an all-inclusive resort/theme park on water, and several cruise lines cater to families well. Everything is taken care of for you (including the kids!). In fact, cruise vacations are so easy, undemanding and laissez-faire, even the destinations come to you.
You usually set sail at night so that by the time you awake you’re at a new port of call. Shore excursions can be arranged through the ship’s purser or you can simply disembark and explore independently as a family.
Family cruises know how to keep the youngsters amused. Onboard activities such as pools, waterslides, and rock climbing walls provide fun recreational options. Kids’ Clubs are manned by certified counselors specially trained in child development, education and recreation and they know how to engage children in age-specific programs. Parents are often provided with pagers to stay connected with their dropped-off little ones, providing peace of mind to go relax and enjoy themselves. Nighttime babysitting is an option, so romantic dinners for two can be indulged in.
When you add it all up, family cruises can be an efficient, relatively economical, hassle-free vacation choice. It’s a safe, contained environment to give your older kids a bit of freedom to roam around the decks without you. The ‘round-the-clock all-you-can-eat buffets, snack bars and fine dining establishments mean no one will go hungry (including your bottomless-pit teenaged son).
You won’t get a lot of time to explore the local culture at any port of call. You’ll have some annoying early morning wake-ups to deal with customs bureaucracy at each international stop, should you and the kids wish to disembark (note, the wife and kids can’t snooze in while dad takes care of business – anyone getting off the boat must be present with their passport). You may grow tired of the excessive buffet spreads a few days into the voyage – gluttony eventually catches up with you.
All ages are catered to on a family cruise – this is their specialty and they do it well. Stimulating children’s programs (as opposed to basic childcare) are usually available for ages 3 and up and some cruise lines have made a special effort to reach out to tweens and teens.
Grab the kids and get off the boat, even if it seems simpler to stay aboard. You won’t delve deep in the local culture in a day, but it’ll give you a sampling that might inspire you to come back for more at a later date.
A good book – with the kids otherwise engaged, you might actually get some free time to read on a cruise.
Popular destinations include Mexico, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Alaska.
Carnival (www.carnival.com) – Camp Carnival is like summer camp on the high seas. The waterslides will appeal to kids of all ages; nightly pillow-top chocolate chip cookies are a nice touch.
Royal Caribbean (www.royalcaribbean.com) – Famous for their cool rock wall.
Disney (www.disneycruise.disney.go.com) – Familiar friends like Mickey and Captain Hook help keep the little ones entertained, while older kids can try their hands at things like animation projects.
Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) – Kid programs start at age 2.
Holland America (www.hollandamerica.com) – Club Hal keeps kids age 3 and up entertained while teens can hang in The Loft and The Oasis.