There are so many different factors to consider when finding the right ship to sail on for your family so that you can all have the best possible time while on vacation. I think cruises with kids are the best kind of vacation because of all the onboard activities that are available for the whole family and for the kids independent from the parents, so it allows for some adult time as well as family time. Not many vacations can boast that this is an option. Here are a 5 things to consider when trying to find the right ship for your vacation.
Age of your kids
Your children’s ages will make a difference as to the amount of fun you can have independently of your kids as well as together. It will also make a difference in how much or how little you will need to pack.
When looking into a ship you want to sail on, you really want to look into the ages and restrictions in place for the various camps offered on board. Most ships have a minimum age (3-years old) and they must be potty trained in order to partake in the camp activities. They also may offer baby sitting services for a small fee. If you have very young kids and are considering a date night with your husband or just want to be able to view some shows you know may not interest your kids, you can look into the age ranges and restrictions of any babysitting and/or camps that are offered onboard.
What baby gear to bring can vary from family-to-family. I bring a limited amount of gear with me, even when my kids were very young. Usually, I will bring a small umbrella stroller, bottles or sippy cups, diapers, breast pump when Madison still had not transitioned to milk and food. As they get older, the less you will need. I have never taken a travel crib with me because the kids (at least one but often both) would sleep in bed with us, so I knew it would just be a waste of limited space plus most cruise lines do offer a crib upon request. Get to know your cabin steward very well and they will help you with whatever you need.
2. Ports of Call
Sailing with kids is a completely different experience then when you go as a couple because of all the complications. Exploring the different ports of call can be one of those. When looking at sailings, look at the different ports of call and consider taking a sailing with family friendly ports. I have only ever sailed the Caribbean, so I will use that as an example.
Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Disney all have their own private islands that the ships will make a stop at. These ports are normally within walking distances to the ship so you wouldn’t have to worry about transportation issues and you won’t have to take a car seat with you to get to the beach.
If your sailing will not be making a stop at one of these private islands, research what is nearby the ship that may interest your kids. For example, if you stop in Puerto Rico, the port is in Old San Juan which is very scenic on it’s own, and there are two Forts that you can visit within a few blocks of each other; Castillo de San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro. I visited Castillo de San Cristobal with the kids when Madison was a year old and Sebastian was 4. Even though he was a bit moody, he did enjoy visiting the fort and playing with the canons and such on display.
There are always great deals on cruises. You just have to catch the right one. Many cruises will have a second and third passengers sail at xx% off or even free. They can also offer things like a certain amount in onboard credit, or I’ve even seen one where tips are included in the cost of the sailing.
Paying for a cruise can be done a little at a time, but you will have to plan in advance. You can make your deposit and then call in every month or however often you’d like to pay into the cruise, so long as you meet the deadline. Also, may cruises will also give you your money back if you have to cancel your cruise, but with restrictions. If you need to cancel your vacation, and it is before your final payment deadline, many companies will reimburse you in full. Just make sure you look into your terms before paying your deposit.
Some companies are more expensive then others, but you have to weigh in what they offer for free vs what you would have to pay for. Things like excursions or babysitting services, if there isn’t a whole lot for the kids to do on board, can get pricey. For example, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Disney both have a lot of onboard activities from water slides, splash pools for little ones , shows geared towards children, arcades, games with cruise staff, etc. All these extras that are geared more for kids can end up cheaper in the long run than if you were to book with another ship that didn’t have as much and you end up having to pay for excursions or arcade games just to keep the kids entertained.
4. Sleeping Arrangements
This is another big consideration to make when booking a cruise because staterooms can accommodate only so many people, and if you have more than 2 kids, unless you book a suite, you may end up having to book multiple cabins. There are things to take into consideration when doing the booking, like kids cannot be in their own room, even if the cabins are adjoined. There needs to be at least one adult assigned to each room a child will be staying in.
If you will have family members coming along to help, you can weigh in the cost vs the convenience of adjoining rooms, suites , or just separate cabins altogether.
5. On Board Amenities
What’s onboard varies from ship to ship as well, so you really must look at what the ship offers as opposed to what the company offers.
The pools will differ across the ships. Some will have slides whereas others won’t and some will offer a babies only splash pool. This is the important part, because infants in diapers are not allowed in the regular pools per Coast Guard health regulations, so some ships will offer a splash pool that is designated only for infants that are not completely potty trained yet.
Some ships also offer specific character entertainment. Disney will have character meet and great as well as shows and Royal Caribbean has a Dreamworks characters breakfast and parade. Also, look into which ships have a toy room. For example, on Royal Caribbean Oasis class ships, they have a specific, dedicated room available filled with toys that young kids can play with when they are not at the kids camp or are too young to be in the camp. This also helps with packing because you will not have to bring as many toys with you if there are toys available onboard for toddlers to play with.
No matter what you decide, being with your family and enjoying the experience is the most important part of any trip you decide to take. Whether you are vacationing for new experiences or to be able to just get away for a bit, there are many different options available for your family to be able to have the best vacation possible.