Dispelling Some Myths and Finding the Right Cruise for Your Family
Thinking of cruising with your family? Cruises make for an excellent family vacation, but it’s important to plan carefully if you want to find the cruise that’s right for everyone in your clan.
The experts at CruiseCompete have done the research for you, covering the entire spectrum of options with information on mainstream lines like Disney, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and NCL, as well as unique alternatives like luxury, river and small ship excursion companies.
It’s important to remember that not all cruise lines have children’s programs. Some lines have minimum age requirements for children (and pregnancy policies for expectant parents!), and others don’t permit children to sail at all. If you’re planning a family vacation, pick a cruise line that meets your specific needs, where the kids will be entertained and you can actually enjoy your time on board. It will feel much more like money well spent that way.
This guide is designed to kick-start your planning. You’ll find all the information in an easy-to-read format, with brief summaries so you can see at a glance if the cruise line fits your basic requirements, followed by more detailed information about the atmosphere on board, the destinations you can travel to, and the specific children’s programs available for your kids.
Let’s begin by dispelling some commonly held misconceptions about cruising.
Myth No. 1: Cruises are too expensive for a family vacation.
A cruise is actually one of the best travel values out there. Most cruises include your selected shipboard accommodations, 24-hour cabin service, standard meals in the dining room and/or various buffets, ports of call, and most entertainment aboard the ship. Children’s programs are also included. On some lines, even airfare and transfers may be included. In addition, many lines are now moving toward a completely all-inclusive format, which makes your cruise experience even more streamlined and simple. Even with all these included amenities, a seven-night cruise generally costs less than seven nights at a comparable resort. The food alone, breakfast, lunch, snacks poolside, dinner and cookies and milk at a resort add significant costs to a land vacation.
Myth No. 2: People only take cruises when the weather turns cold.
Cruise travel is a year-round pastime. Sure, it is a great way to beat the cold, but families also take cruises during the summer months when children are out of school. Regardless of the time of year, you can find the perfect cruise for your family. Cruises to the Caribbean and Bahamas run year-round, the Alaska cruising season runs May through September, Europe runs from April through November, Bermuda runs from April through October, and the Panama Canal runs between September and April.
Myth No. 3: You have to have a lot of time for a cruise vacation.
Cruise lengths actually vary significantly to meet personal tastes. They can vary from a quick three-day jaunt to a world cruise that lasts 100 days or more. It all depends on what you want; there’s no shortage of cruise itineraries to meet your needs.
Myth No. 4: We’ll get bored: there’s nothing to do on a cruise.
Cruise ships are floating resorts, with plenty of fun for everyone. The flurry of activities on board a cruise ship is amazing; typical activities include shore excursions, water sports, pool activities, fitness centers, live entertainment, casinos, bingo, dance lessons, talent contests, karaoke, wine tasting, rock wall climbing, spas, movies and much more. Most days are spent in exotic ports with plenty to see and do. If you have a special interest, the lines cater to these as well: golfers can play challenging, top-ranked island courses (extra fees may apply), gourmets love the dining, and explorers can find a different adventure in every port.
In addition, all of the major cruise lines offer organized programs and camps for children. They can participate all day, or only in specific activities. This provides for both fun family time and a chance for parents to relax on their own. Daycare and babysitting services are also available.
Myth No. 6: What if there’s a medical emergency? We’ll be in the middle of the ocean with no medical services.
Virtually every cruise ship has a fully equipped medical facility and staff on board to handle almost any emergency. The cruise lines also have precautions in place if a person has to be evacuated to a hospital on land. If you have concerns, be sure to speak with your travel agent to get specifics on the line’s policies.
- Be sure to purchase trip insurance. Most lines cover these types of medical emergencies
- Prescription medication should be kept close at hand in a purse or carry-on, rather than in checked luggage.
- Carry a written list of medications with dosages, in case your medications get lost.
Myth No. 7: Cruise ships spend all their time at sea; we won’t see anything!
Cruise vacationers actually have the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time on land. Virtually every cruise features multiple ports of call, giving travelers a chance to visit beautiful, secluded beaches, vibrant cities, and popular tourist sites, as well as to enjoy breathtaking scenery. Every port offers a unique experience. Ships usually arrive in port early in the morning, allowing plenty of time for shopping, dining, visiting historical sites and exploring the area. Planned excursions, arranged by the ship’s staff or local sightseeing companies, also are available at an extra cost.
Myth No. 8
There aren’t any healthy options on board for my family.
While cruises are known for having plenty of food available, cruise lines are very aware of the healthy-eating lifestyles of many cruisers. Every meal offers healthy choices as part of their already extensive food selections, which are prepared under the direction of some of the greatest chefs in the world.
Plus, there are plenty of activities on board and off to help people burn away any extra calories during their vacation.
Myth No. 9: A cruise ship cabin is claustrophobic; my family will be climbing the walls!
An inside economy cabin does tend to be small and usually lacks a window. An outside cabin (ocean view) has a window or porthole, while a balcony (verandah) cabin has a glass door leading to a balcony that is usually equipped with a small table and chairs. Most ships feature larger suites for those who truly need more space, but realistically, with all the goings-on on board, most passengers spend a limited amount of time in their cabins, and it’s a non-issue.
Myth No. 10:
We’ll probably all get seasick on a cruise.
Even if you suffer from motion sickness during car rides or on airplanes, it is unlikely you will become seasick on a cruise ship. Due to their immense size and the stabilizers that all ships are equipped with, you probably won’t notice any motion at all. Some parts of the ocean, however, are rougher than others. If you do get seasick, medications are available on board to get you back on your feet quickly.
Myth No. 11: We’ll be completely out of touch and unreachable at sea.
While some people relish the thought of getting away from it all, the cruise industry realizes many folks want (or need) to stay in touch. Cell phone connectivity is standard across the industry, and wireless Internet has progressed in leaps and bounds in recent years.
As an example, Royal Caribbean’s 4,180-passenger ship Quantum of the Seas has enough bandwidth that friends and family can follow along on your cruise, watching what’s happening via tweets, Facebook, and other social media posts—even your personal blog, if you have one.
These developments are of course a response to passengers’ need to be fully connected while on vacation. It’s a huge leap forward in technology, as historically Internet connections aboard ships have been much slower than on land, and data restrictions are in place. Fees currently range from $15 to $30 a day for unlimited usage.
Armed with the facts, you’re ready to start preparing for your family cruise vacation. In these pages, you’ll read about the different types and sizes of ships, what to expect from the lines, what’s included in your cruise, and more. Learn more about the programs, activities, and entertainment on board, as well as what the cruise lines offer for onshore activities.
We hope you’ll find all the answers you’re looking for (and learn much, much more!) to get your family cruise vacation kick-started. Happy planning!