How to Plan a Great Family Cruise

Romantic ocean breezes, a midnight walk on deck, dazzling dinners at the Captain’s table, and days full of planned activities which the kids will love. These days, cruises are not just for singles, honeymoon couples, or senior citizens. Most major cruise lines have discovered that families are a great market for spectacular and fun cruises, and developed special tour and cruise offerings that cater to family fun. If you are considering a cruise vacation for your family, here are some tips and suggestions that can make your travel experience a wonderful family memory.
1. Include the family in the planning.
A great way to ensure that your children will love the activities that you plan for them is to include their ideas in the planning process. By the time kids are old enough to have opinions; they will enjoy any trip more if they have a hand in the choosing. Gather information about various cruises and destinations that fit into your budget and encourage the children to offer some suggestions. It’s a great way to find out that your eight year old is a budding archaeologist with an affinity for the Nile, or your fourteen year old dreams of seeing the Northern Lights. Even if their only input is to suggest the cruise ship with the full theme park on Deck Three, you’ll know what’s important to them when booking your cruise.
2. Choose a kid-centered cruise.
Most cruise lines allow children. Some cruise lines even specialize in catering to families with children. When you’re cruising with a family in tow, it’s important to choose a cruise line that designs activities for children. While long, lazy days at sea with nothing to do may be your idea of heaven, your children probably need more stimulation. Besides the activities planned by the cruise line, your children will also have the benefit of the other kids onboard to share the experience with. Any experienced cruise traveler can tell you, half the fun is in the people that you meet on board the ship.
3. Consider how much togetherness you want.
The most attractive family cruise programs feature a well-rounded selection of activities geared to all members of the family. The activities offered are likely to include “family activities” for parents and kids together, as well as a variety of things for kids to do without parents in tow. In addition, there will be activities geared to all age groups, from toddlers to teens – with and without parents. That provides “couple time” for mom and dad, as well as time for each person in the family to pursue their own interests. Look for a family centered cruise that offers the degree of togetherness that’s right for your family, and a wide range of activities that everyone can enjoy.
4. Put safety up front.
When choosing a family cruise, ask hard questions about how the cruise line provides for the safety of your children. Are their activity counselors trained to work with children in the age group with which they are working? Is each activity staffed with trained counselors/guides who are certified in first aid and safety? Does the company do thorough background checks on any person who is hired to work with your children? Don’t make assumptions – get assurances. The following are some questions that the cruise line should be able to answer:
– How are counselors working with children trained?
– What background checks do you perform for the employees who work with children?
– Do your cruise counselors have first aid and safety training?
– If babysitting is available, what background checks are done for babysitters?
– What safety measures are in use to keep track of children while they are in the care of ship staff?
– Do you require parents to check children in and out of activity areas and activities?
5. Kids’ menus, cabins and other practicalities.
Before you make your final decision on a family cruise, look into the availability of any special needs your children may have. If you’re booking with a line that caters to children, you can expect them to have a children’s menu – but that might not be all you need. If your child needs a special diet because of allergies, religion, health or just overall pickiness, it’s important to know that those foods will be available for your child. Likewise, it’s important to know the cruise line’s policy on adults and children in rooms – some, for instance, require an adult in each room where children are staying, which may mean the entire family sharing a room.
Family cruises are growing in popularity year by year, and why not? They offer an all-inclusive vacation experience that the whole family can enjoy. Shop around for the cruise that offers the best deal for your family, and have a great time.

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