7 Good-to-Know Tips for Cruising with Kids
Cruising is one of the best holidays around for families – it’s good value, has endless onboard entertainment (waterslides, anyone?), plenty of food options for even the most picky eater, and did we mention the kids’ club? Some cruise lines place kids front and centre – here’s looking at you Disney, P&O and Carnival – but most have an abundance of boredom-busters, from circus activities to FlowRider surf simulators, ice skating to outdoor movies, themed parties to sports galore.
We asked around our cruise experts and experienced cruisers-with-kids to find out some insider tips to know before you go.
Some cruise ships cap the number of children on board, which may be dictated by the types of cabins available and kids’ club requirements. Popular dates and vessels might have to be booked up to a year in advance. If you have children young enough, consider a cruise outside school holiday periods – they’re often cheaper and have plenty of room.
Do Your Homework
Knowledge is power – as any experienced cruiser will attest. So take the time to do your homework and figure out how everything works. Kids’ clubs differ from ship to ship, so make sure you know the drill – do they provide lunch or must you pick the kids up for lunch each day? Do you need to register or is it first-come, first-served?
Oceaneer Club - Disney Magic and Wonder
Also check out all the facilities, entertainment and dining options on board and schedule in some time for them. There’s nothing worse than finding out about that Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast (Carnival) when the cruise is almost over. See if you can find a family who has done the same cruise on the same ship, and quiz them before you go.
Lines such as P&O offer cashless cruising, where all onboard expenses are charged to your personalised cruise card – if you have older children who want the run of the ship, set down some ground rules before you board for how expenses will be handled. If you want to keep track of your roaming teens, some ships have walkie-talkies available for hire.
More family cruise inspiration:
Early v Late
As with just about every activity as a parent, planning ahead can make the difference between a good day and a bad day. Early risers will have a better chance of bagging a good shady chair by the pool – we’re talking breakfast time here – as well as getting tender tickets for an early start to shore excursions. If you are in a tender port and haven’t booked your excursion in advance, you might consider taking a later tender to shore, and hit the pool or other attractions while they’re empty.
While most cruise lines are very well set up for kids, options for very little ones may be limited. For instance, some lines do not take babies less than six months old, or 12 months old depending on the itinerary. Little ones still in nappies may not be allowed in swimming pools, and kids’ clubs may require parents to stay with their children up to age two. Some cruise lines, such as Cunard and Disney, do offer nurseries for younger children, so do your homework before you choose a cruise.
BYO v Buy Onboard
Debate rages over whether you should bring your own drinks or buy them on board. Most cruise lines prohibit alcohol but some let you pack drinks like water and soft drink. One cruiser we asked said the tap water in the eating area was tolerable and free.
Word is you’ll want a lanyard to carry your room card and they’re much cheaper on shore than on board. However, some tipsters suggest nipping to the onboard casino for a free lanyard. One cruiser with four kids brought their own snorkels and flippers for shore excursions on a South Pacific cruise, as the cost was about the same as hiring them.
Bring the Grandparents!
You can never go wrong with backup! Grandma and Granddad can take the toddler for a walk on the promenade deck or take older children to the more adventurous activities, so mum and dad can have a blissful hour to themselves. Or see if they’ll stay with the kids while you enjoy a romantic dinner.
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