Friday, January 10th, 2014
The February issue of Parents magazine announced the Best Family Cruises. A cruise vacation is one of the easiest ways to travel with children of multiple ages, since there are activities to keep them — and you –- entertained for days on end. It’s also great for multi-generational groups, when you’re interested in bringing the grandparents (or aunts and uncles) too. Here’s what you need to know before you plunk down that deposit:
1. Not all cruise lines are created equal.
It’s important to research your cruise line thoroughly before making a commitment, since some are geared especially for families with kids and others, not so much. Don’t let only price determine your ship choice: You may find that choosing a line that costs a bit more is a better choice because they cater to your family.
2. Evaluate the onboard activities.
While some lines focus more on adult-oriented activities like wine tastings and port lectures, others offer crafts for children and pajama parties, and some offer … bingo, afternoon tea, and crossword puzzles. It’s important to evaluate what your days will look like on sea days (especially if there’s more than one) before you make a final decision. Is there a kids’ club, or ideally several, devoted to different age groups? Pay special attention to the ranges of ages catered to, and how extensive the offerings are during the day and in the evening. You may not choose to drop the kids off or hire a babysitter, but knowing what’s available will give you a sense of the onboard demographic.
3. Review the shore excursions.
Does the ship offer kid-focused, or at least family-friendly activities? Even if you think you will most likely make your own way on port days, the list of offerings will give you a sense of whether this cruise is primarily for families or more appealing to retirees.
4. Review what amenities are available.
Make a list of the things you’ll need. Do you have a child still in diapers? What about one that’s still in a crib? Or, do you have video game-addicted teens that won’t want to completely ignore their habit while at sea? Some cruise lines make a wide range of products and services available for different age groups, and others just don’t, depending on the types of passengers they typically cater to.
5. Check out the food options.
Depending on your budget, you may want to eat in the main dining room every night or try out the specialty restaurants (with usually have fees attached). Most lines offer sample menus on their sites, and that will give you a sense of whether your family will enjoy the food options. In addition, if they have children’s menus, look at a sample of one before booking.
You can do lots of planning at Cruiseline.com.
And see Parents magazine editors’ videos of the Disney and Royal Caribbean lines!
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