Cruising is hardly a high-risk family vacation. Over a million children set sail each year and while the vast majority return unscathed, mishaps large and small do happen. A little forethought and some common sense precautions can go a long way in avoiding oopsies and illnesses that can give you holiday memories you’d rather not have. Here are some basic tips for keeping your kids safe and healthy on a cruise.
Cruising for a bruising
It may take some time for your kids to get their sea legs. The wobbly sensation may be enough to throw them off balance, so minor bumps, bruises and boo-boos are a distinct possibility. Have your children wear comfy non-slip shoes and encourage them (lead by example) to hold on to railings, especially when walking up stairs. Take extra care when strolling on wet decks where slips and slides are more likely to occur.
Going overboard with gluttony
One of the big draws to cruise vacations is their all-you-can-eat, round-the-clock, all-inclusive food and beverage temptations. Bountiful buffets, casual restaurants, fine dining halls, 24/7 pizza ovens, snack shacks, self-serve ice cream fountains and bars with frothy, fruity, umbrella-topped drinks are hard to resist for grown-ups and children alike. But just because the ice cream machine is there doesn’t mean you need to down five bowls a day. Balance and moderation is key. The kids (and you, for that matter) can certainly indulge in a daily treat or two, just try not to go overboard. For example, have the family share bites of a few sample deserts rather than gorging on multiple plates each. Ensure that the kids consume plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy options so they can keep up their energy and enthusiasm for shipboard activities and shore excursions. Trust me, a child hyped up on sugary junk, sluggish from greasy fare or overstuffed with a tummy ache isn’t a pleasant travel companion. The most important tip to keep in mind is to make sure everyone in the family drinks plenty of water to avoid dehydration and help flush out the not-so-sensible dietary choices consumed. Some ships have fountain plans offering bottomless soft drinks, but why hook your kids into a steady stream of caffeine, sodium, sugar or artificial sweeteners when H20 is clearly a better choice?
All those reports about mass shipboard outbreaks of norovirus (otherwise known as gastroenteritis) can make you feel like you’re taking your family on a floating petri dish. This 24 hour flu-like bug can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach discomfort, and can spread around a ship like, well, a virus. It’s not a particularly serious ailment, but it will put a cramp in the family vacation (quite literally). However, to put things in perspective, statistics say there is a 1 in 4000 chance of contracting norovirus on a cruise as opposed to a 1 in 12 chance of contracting it on land, so take basic precautions but don’t be too paranoid about it. Proper hygiene is the main key to avoiding these kinds of contagions. Remind your kids again and again to wash their hands, especially before eating and after using the washroom. Tell them to use hot soapy water, and have them sing through the alphabet song to stretch it out to at least a 20-second scrub. Coach them to avoid rubbing their eyes or scratching their nose after touching communal grabbers like railings, door knobs and elevator buttons. Pack along some alcohol based hand sanitizer for those times when a sink isn’t handy.
Cruise lines don’t like the bad PR that comes from shipboard outbreaks and have rigorous hygiene and sanitation practices to try to prevent them. Here’s a recent list of sanitation inspection scores of international cruise ships so you can check out how shipshape your ship is.