Cruising with kids can be a wonderful way to spend quality time together as a family, it allows you to explore new destinations while enjoying all the amenities that a cruise ship has to offer. However, I understand that traveling with children can also be a bit daunting, because we as parents need to make sure that our kids are safe, happy, and entertained throughout a journey that we aren’t fully in control of.
Hopefully these 8 tips for cruising with kids will help you feel prepared and able to really unwind enjoy your family vacation.
My Top Tips for Cruising with Kids
- Choose the Right Cruise Line
Choose a cruise line that is known for its family-friendly atmosphere. Many cruise lines offer programs and activities specifically for children, including supervised kids’ clubs, splash pools, and youth-oriented entertainment. Research the cruise lines you’re considering and read reviews from other families who have cruised with children.
Pick a ship size that works best for your family, and the length of cruise. The larger cruise ships do offer more, from activities to shows and dining options, but can be more confusing for younger ones to navigate. For younger kids and for shorter cruises, sometimes smaller ships are a little more convenient (though they also tend to be older ships, that have been upgraded — but also usually come with a lower price-point as well!). For this cruise we were on the Carnival Liberty.
- Book the Right Cabin
How did we sleep all EIGHT of us comfortably? We opted for two adjoining cabins. If you’re ready to splurge, there are also exclusive special cabins and suites that can sleep more than four (and many times offer other special options and amenities!). When booking your cabin, consider the size of your family and the ages of your children.
Some cruise lines offer family suites or cabins with connecting doors, which can give your family extra space and privacy. Also, consider booking a cabin that is close to the kids’ club or other family-oriented amenities.
- Make a Dining Plan
No one stays hungry on a cruise! If you have young ones, try and opt for “anytime dining” for dinner. It’s hard to tell ahead of time if your little one needs a nap before dinner, or will be sleepy early — so being able to choose a meal time for dinner dining on the day-of is a big plus! We always ended up dining early (thanks to the app, we could check in as we left our cabin and there was a table waiting for us when we arrived!), and then our older kids would grab some late-night fare later on as well! If you have to choose a meal-time ahead of sailing, opt for an early one.
Also, most lines offer kids’ menus at lunch and dinner — so if you don’t see a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or hot dog on the menu, just ask (kids menus are usually available upon request)!
- Plan Ahead for Port Excursions
If you’re planning to take port excursions, research the activities and locations in advance to make sure they are appropriate for your family. Some excursions may not be suitable for younger children or those with mobility issues. Consider booking excursions through the cruise line, as they often offer family-friendly options.
- Pack Wisely
Pack for your children’s needs, including sunscreen, insect repellent, and any medications they may require. Consider bringing a refillable water bottle, it comes in handy on the ship as well on your excursions. Also, pack plenty of activities to keep your kids entertained during downtime. For more packing tips check out this post!
- Establish Ground Rules
Before boarding the ship, establish ground rules with your children. This could include rules about safety, behavior, and curfew times. Make sure your kids understand the consequences of breaking the rules. Let your kids know what you expect. Want to all have dinner together each night? Let them know ahead of time. Keeping your expectations reasonable and sharing them with your family, helps to take the stress out of it all — everyone can be on the same page.
- Take Advantage of Onboard Activities
Most cruise ships offer a variety of activities for families, including games, movies, and shows. Take advantage of these activities and encourage your children to participate in the onboard entertainment.
- Water Fun: While all family-friendly cruises feature pools, some take it a step further by creating multiple water zones, slides and fun. For this first cruise, we went with what was available (spring break) and based on price — so it wasn’t one of the newer ships. However, for a first cruise with kids, it was a great way to get their “feet wet”. Newer ships do tend to have more “wow” features of slides, water parks and other water features.
- Kids Programs: Most cruise lines offer great programs and options that fit your family needs and ages, from young ones to teens. We had someone in EACH aged program on our ship! Register ahead of time, to save time on board and take your kids during “open house” on the first day to see explore for themselves and make new friends.
- Be Flexible
While it’s important to have a plan, it’s also important to be flexible. Don’t stress too much if things don’t go according to plan. Relax and enjoy the time with your family, and make memories that will last a lifetime. Have fun, take a deep breath and set reasonable expectations. Mostly, relax, have fun and make memories!
Ultimately, to make sure that your family cruise is an epic success, I find that it is important to do some research beforehand, and to plan for the unique needs of your family. By choosing the right cruise line, booking the right cabin, packing wisely, taking advantage of onboard activities, being flexible with your plans and establishing ground rules, you can help ensure that your family makes all of the lasting memories and you get to have a more stress-free and enjoyable vacation at sea.
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