Thinking about setting sail as a family? You’re not alone.
According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), 42 percent of cruise parties travel with children under the age of 18. Why? Because today’s cruise lines offer a little something for everyone all in one place. “There are many reasons this vacation experience appeals to families,” says Holly McGuire, CEO of Hi Ho Vacations. “High on the list is ease and accessibility — families can unpack one time and enjoy fabulous vacation experiences onboard while exploring ports of call all over the world.”
In today’s fast-paced society, parents are often looking for ways to escape the daily grind and reconnect as a family. “Cruising allows them to accomplish this without hassle,” McGuire says. “Most cruise lines offer all-inclusive entertainment, meals and onboard experiences included in the price.”
The key to a successful family cruise is finding the right fit for your family. Below are a few things to consider before setting sail.
Make sure the kids’ programming is a good match
Keep your kids’ ages and personalities in mind when selecting a ship. All cruise lines divide their youth programming into age-appropriate groups, but different lines take different approaches toward those age groupings. Some offer very narrow age ranges, like 3 to 5, 6 to 8, etc., while others opt for wider groupings, like 8 to 12. You know what will work best for your kids. If you are traveling with an infant, you may want to consider cruise lines that offer a drop-off nursery.
Also consider the types of activities your children gravitate towards on land, and then be sure at least some of those are available at sea. Have an active kid? Look for ships with athletic activities like rock climbing and zip lining. Water-loving kids will appreciate a ship with multiple pools and waterpark-like features. If you are traveling with teens, look for ships that offer designated teen programming and hangout spots.
Opt for travel insurance
Flight delays, illnesses and weather conditions are just a few of the things that can bring even the best-laid plans to a screeching halt. Purchasing cruise-line insurance can help protect you from loss of nonrefundable advance payments, trip interruption fees and costs of on-board or overseas medical emergencies that are likely not covered by your medical insurance. “Travel insurance is something we always recommend,” McGuire says. “Most insurance providers will quote a price based on the total cost of the cruise and number of people traveling … there are several formulas based on which provider you choose.”
No matter how great the cruise line and the amenities offered, seasickness could quickly turn a relaxing vacation into a miserable experience. McGuire, an avid cruiser who is prone to motion sickness, notes that there is lots of advice out there about picking a cabin in the right part of the ship to avoid seasickness. “Honestly, that is not the greatest advice,” she says. “My best advice is if you are prone to motion sickness, bring sea bands or medication from your doctor and consider what cabin type you’ll be most comfortable.” McGuire noted that for many, having a window to look out or veranda to step out onto could help. “Inside cabins, depending on how long the sailing is, can be hard for those prone to motion sickness … not being able to easily see outside or feel fresh air can exaggerate symptoms.”
Pick the right excursions for your family
Most cruise lines have a wide range of excursions to choose from — everything from cooking classes to snorkeling and deep sea diving. “Have a family conversation when it’s time to choose excursions and see what interest the kids,” McGuire says. “You might be surprised at the answers!” McGuire also notes that it is important to take into account your family’s activity level and the recommended age range for each excursion. It is also essential to have realistic expectations. “If you are a family who does not typically enjoy, let’s say hiking, everyone is not going to suddenly decide to love a scenic hike on vacation,” she adds.
Get help from the professionals
According to CLIA, 70 percent of guests book their trip with a travel planner, and for good reason. “The overall experience will be much more rewarding when you reserve with a quality travel planner who knows the ins and outs of the cruise line and how to make the most of your time and money onboard … some will offer perks like onboard credits and upgrades,” McGuire says. Travel planners tend to focus on specific cruise lines and their fees will vary. Hi Ho Vacations’ services are free and they focus on Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean because they feel they offer the best choice for their clients.
By following these tips and enlisting the help of a travel planner, you are sure to set sail on a family vacation to remember.