With more than 30 cruises under our belt, our family loves to cruise. Cruising is one of the easiest ways to travel the world. You have a floating hotel, a chef to prepare all of your meals, a stateroom host to clean your room, and a built-in babysitter. For most parents, it is the best vacation ever!
That is why the Jones Family loves cruising. We wanted to share some of our favorite tips and tricks for cruising with kids. Bon Voyage!
Select a Cruise Line That Fits Your Family
There are many great cruise lines for families. Some of our favorite cruise lines include Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Line. Each cruise line varies, based on amenities and price.
When looking at cruise lines, research each company to see what cruise is best for your family vacation. Here are a few things to consider when selecting a cruise line for your family.
When looking at a cruise line, check to see if they offer children programming. Most do, but the programming may vary. Some cruise lines offer programming from early morning to late nights, while others may offer morning, afternoon, and evening sessions. Check to see the schedules and if there are any extra fees.
If you have little ones, check to see the fees for babysitting — most charge a fee for this. In addition, some cruise lines also limit the number of hours you can leave your little ones for babysitting. For example, for a three-night cruise, you may be limited to only 10 hours of babysitting. This certainly could make a difference on which cruise line you book.
When considering your cruise line, you will want to review dining and restaurants. Do these restaurants fit your traveling party’s needs?
For families, we love Disney Cruise Line. The Disney Cruise Ships have something called Rotational Dining. You move from restaurant to restaurant each night, but your servers come with you. Each restaurant is themed and a lot of fun for the whole family. Some restaurants include Disney characters, such as Mickey Mouse, Rapunzel, Crush from Finding Dory, and Tiana. These are perfect restaurants for kids.
Entertainment and Recreation:
Cruise lines have amazing entertainment for the whole family. Before booking your cruise, check to see which cruise line has the best entertainment for your kids. Royal Caribbean has broadway shows such as Jersey Boys and Grease. However, these shows are great for teens, but may not be family-friendly for the younger ones.
You also want to check the recreational activities on board the cruise ships. Cruise lines such as Norwegian have incredible activities such as go-carts at sea and laser tag. These activities are perfect for older kids, but may not be a good fit for your elementary-aged kids. On the other hand, Disney Cruise is perfect for younger kids with all of the Disney characters, but may not be the best for the teens. Spend some time with the family looking at the different entertainment and recreation options before booking your trip.
Your hotel room is called a stateroom. You could spend three to 15 nights (or more) in your stateroom, so finding a good room for your family is key. You will still spend a lot of time during your vacation in your stateroom.
Many cruise lines have staterooms just for families. One of my favorites is on board Carnival Cruise Line. They have a stateroom category with different views called a Family Harbor Stateroom. These rooms are all on the same deck. They have fun themes and all of these rooms have access to a private lounge area, just for families. You can get unlimited ice cream and snacks. They also have gaming consoles and couches to just relax with the family.
Select a Cruise Ship That Fits Your Family
Not all cruise lines have the same amenities on all of their ships. Each ship is a bit different. Spend some time looking at the different cruise ships to find a ship that best fits your family. For example, the brand-new Oasis Class of ships for Royal Caribbean have some incredible family amenities, such as ice skating, a carousel, a slide, rock climbing, FlowRider, bumper cars, ziplines, and so much more.
The newer ships usually have better amenities for families, but they also can be more expensive. One of our favorite tips is booking a newly renovated ship. Many older ships will go into “dry dock” to get enhancements. This means the ship has been updated, but the price is usually not as high as a brand new ship.
Once you find a cruise line that you like, start checking their ships to find a ship that fits your family.
Hire an Expert for FREE
Cruising can be a very complicated vacation to book. You will spend hours and hours finding the best cruise line and the best ship or you can hire a travel professional. Many travel agents specialize in cruise vacations, and most of these cruise experts are free because they are paid directly by the cruise line, once you travel. They work for you to find the best deal, best cruise line, best cruise ship, and even the best cruise for you. It is a win-win-win-win!
Arrive a Day Earlier
When planning your cruise, be sure you always arrive a day before your cruise starts. If you are traveling to a city, state, or even country to start your cruise; you want to make sure you arrive a day earlier. This will give you a little extra time, just in case you have any flight cancellations or transportation challenges.
We have heard so many horror stories about families that missed their cruise, due to a flight delay or even traffic. The cruise ships will leave without you, so be sure you leave yourself a little extra time and arrive a day before you cruise.
Book Shore Excursions
We love cruising to travel the world. Your cruise will take you to several ports of call during your vacation. You can either hop off the ship and explore on your own or book a shore excursion. A shore excursion is a planned trip for a few hours or a full day with a tour operator. Shore excursions are an added fee for the experience, but an amazing way to see a port of call.
With kids, we always like to book a shore excursion. These excursions usually meet as a group on the ship and walk to a meeting spot at the port to meet the tour operator. With families, this is the easiest way to travel to a port of call. You have an expert leading you to your destination. Plus, you have that local guide that is giving you the insider experience in a new city, state, or country.
With kids, it is a much more enjoyable way to experience a port of call.
Prepare Your Kids for the Kids’ Clubs
Most tweens and teens miss out on the amazing clubs on board cruise ships. Our kids love both the tween and teens clubs on all of the cruise lines. It is a great way to meet other young travelers. They always have fun activities for the tweens and teens, such as scavenger hunts, dance parties, game nights, and more.
We always recommend sharing details about the tween and teen clubs with your kids before you arrive to the cruise ship. Let them watch some YouTube videos about the clubs. This will get them excited about the tween and teen clubs. It is hard for everyone to try something new. Preparing your kids ahead of time will get them more excited about experiencing all of the fun with the tween and teen clubs on board the ships.
This same technique is great for your younger kids going into the Kids’ Clubs. Many younger children do not want to be away from Mom and Dad. If you share all of the fun of the Kids’ Clubs, they will be more excited about trying it out.
When to Cruise with Kids
One of the biggest questions we always get is: When is the best time to cruise with kids? This may sound strange, but the best time to cruise is when the kids are in school. When the kids are in school, this will be the best time to avoid crowds and you will get the best price. There will still be plenty of kids on board, but it will be a more enjoyable experience. You still have time to book a cruise for your summer vacation or even into the fall months.
We hope these tips will help you plan the epic cruise with your family. Cruising is such an amazing way to travel with kids and explore the world.