Cruising with kids

Finding balance in life is one of those things we constantly struggle to achieve but personally with two busy school-age kids I wonder when I am ever going to find it.

Holidays are a case in point. I dream of going to my most favourite city in the world, Florence, but know my kids would hate it and complain unceasingly about being dragged around the “boring” museums and art galleries.

But the other day I had a brain wave: if I take them on a cruise holiday we can have the best of both worlds; hubby and I can go and get our culture fix and the kids can happily hang out on the ship – with the occasional enforced trip on shore of course.

Two families I know have done this in the last couple of years. Both cruising around the Mediterranean with their children, they were able to visit the likes of Florence and Rome while the children played happily on the ship.

Royal Caribbean Flowrider

Royal Caribbean Flowrider

Interestingly, both parents insisted the children accompany them on-shore most of the time because they wanted them to see and learn about some of the places. For example, Pompeii was a place the kids were fascinated by. But when it was clear the children needed a break and wanted to play with their new-found friends on board the ship, they could, leaving the parents to go on-shore alone.

This, coupled with the ease of always sleeping in the same bed, made both sets of parents say it was the most stress-free holiday they had ever had with their children.

So which cruise ship companies cater the best for children (and we’re talking seven to 12 year-olds here)?

Cruise lines want to attract families with kids but Cruise Factor Ltd advise that they believe the most popular cruise lines (in no particular order) Royal Caribbean, Disney, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival and P&O Australia.

It’s not enough nowadays for a ship to only have a swimming pool – they all have the most amazing facilities such as ice rinks, basketball courts, rock climbing walls and running tracks, to name a few.

And at no extra cost they all offer kids’ clubs with activities and ‘youth counsellors’ whose main aim is to get everybody involved.

Carnival Children's Pool

Carnival Children's Pool

Talent shows, face painting, jewellery making, scavenger hunts and ping-pong tournaments are among the most popular activities offered.

Helpfully, Vacations to Go has listed a few sensible suggestions to ensure your family experience on a cruise ship is stress-free.

1 Find the ship’s “fun places.” The sooner your children feel at home on a cruise ship the better, so the unpacking can wait while you start your fun-seeking tour right away.

2 Help them find a friend. Although our ten-year-old is very sociable and needs no prompting in making new friends, other kids are shy meeting new kids in an unfamiliar environment. It’s often up to the parents to seek out the parents of other kids and make introductions. Then it’s as simple as inviting the new friend to play ping-pong or shuffleboard, to break the ice.

3 Bring Walkie-Talkies. It sounds a little extreme but at some point you may want to experiment with Walkie-Talkies onboard. For example on a day at sea, if your child wants to play ping-pong for 4 hours in a row, you probably won’t want to stay and watch. But with a Walkie-Talkie you can check in frequently from elsewhere on the ship. (Of course, the age at which your child can or should be allowed to roam varies, and it’s up to you to decide this.)

4 Try to see it their way. Sometimes it’s not the fancy-pants facilities or activities they like, it’s things such as trying out the beds that fold down from the walls, checking out videos and DVDs to watch in bed at night, or ordering from the adult menu at dinner.

Royal Caribbean Rock Climbing Wall

Royal Caribbean Rock Climbing Wall

Equally, you might be surprised at what worries your child. One possibility is the lifeboat drill – they might think it is a real emergency. Make sure your child knows it’s just a thing that happens on all ships, and make the pre-drill preparation fun.


Thanks to Rachel Sturges


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