For our family, the answers are simple, and can be summed up in one word: value.
As a mom, I value family time. As Peta-Gaye, I value travel. I have been blessed to merge these two values into one amazingly convenient experience over and over again through cruising. With deals like MSC Cruises’ Kids Sail Free, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free-At-Sea Offer/3rd and 4th Guests Sail Free, the overall cost of a cruise for a family of four or five can be quite affordable, and certainly valuable if one thinks of all that family will be receiving during the cruise.
We pack our bags and either drive or fly to the ship’s homeport, then hop onboard our home for the week – our cruise ship – which will conveniently take us to multiple countries, while providing all our meals, basic drinks, with the option of enhancing our drink experiences, and as much or as little entertainment and/or relaxation as we choose. We unpack once when we enter our stateroom, and although we likely visit multiple countries on this vacation, we only pack to disembark at the end of the cruise, and we don’t have to unpack again until we return home.
Some people cruise for the ports, while others cruise for the ship, and there are some who cruise for both. I cruise for both because I want to visit old and new places, but I also want to cruise on a ship that is in good shape and has decent amenities. For us, cruising allows us to taste and see multiple destinations, briefly getting a feel for the port, and allowing us to decide whether we would like to plan another cruise to that location or maybe even a land vacation at another time. So, it’s not that we won’t or don’t do land vacations, but it’s that we prefer cruising. We generally search for the best excursions that will allow us to explore, that will allow children that are our children’s age to participate, and usually, that includes a beach. Even on pure beach excursions, we tend to seek drivers who will give us a bit of history on the location along the drive, and we have had and hope to have really wonderful experiences.
Cruise ships come in lots of different sizes and with different offerings. There are luxury cruise lines whose ships tend to be smaller than the gargantuan mega ships that the cruise industry and many families have come to know and love. Luxury cruise lines tend to cater to an “adult only” clientele, so we haven’t yet had much experience with those lines. We have definitely enjoyed our experiences with the more family-oriented cruise lines, and we look forward to simulated skydiving, ropes courses, ziplining, bumper cars, electric-car race tracks, thrilling water slides, adventurous dry slides, and more. These options allow cruisers to enjoy a full vacation without having to leave the ship. While at sea, cruisers can also enjoy a number of award-winning theatrical performances, as well as art auctions, casinos, and lounges. A cruise can be one of the most entertaining and adventure-packed vacations.
However, we must be mindful that not all cruisers are seeking a thrill. Some cruisers seek to unwind and relax while on the high seas. The great thing about cruising with a family that may include some thrill-seekers and some peace-seekers is that the very same ships that offer the heart-racing activities mentioned above, also offer spa services, “adult only” locations onboard the ship, and balconies and deck areas that allow cruisers to enjoy the soothing sounds of the ocean and ocean breeze, while gazing at the horizon. Cruising can truly be one of the most relaxing forms of vacationing.
Depending on the length of the cruise, one may be able to enjoy heart-racing fun onboard, as well as quiet relaxation. Surely, family members of varying ages and age groups – from toddler to great-grandparent – can find something of interest during a family cruise, which I think is an amazing perk!
One may be wondering how, if at all, adults who are cruising with children can enjoy the spa and “adult only” locations that cruise lines offer. Well, most cruise lines offer robust children’s programs, usually for those from ages 2 to 17 years old, with some offering services for infants as well, so that the adults in the family can explore and enjoy the ship while the children enjoy cruising and spending time with others their age. Another wonderful perk!
Keep in mind that some children may not want to stay at the children’s program for very long, if at all. In those instances, a family cruise that includes multiple generations – so, for example, a cruise including grandparents, parents, and children – can benefit all parties if a shift system can be worked out. With a shift system, grandparents can take care of the children while mom and dad enjoy a couple’s massage or some alone time in the Solarium. If the grandparents want to visit the spa or Solarium, then the children can stay with mom and dad during that time. It works out well for everyone!
When cruising, there is the abundance of food, which virtually guarantees that a child, no matter how picky, will enjoy something on the menu. Our older son is a very picky eater – like, seriously, PICKY – but on cruises, thus far, he usually has fruit loops, cheerios, or frosted flakes for breakfast; hot dogs, chicken nuggets, french fries, pasta, or pizza for lunch and dinner; and grapes, apples, and/or pears with each meal. He may also surprise us and throw in a slice of bacon or a sausage link with breakfast. What’s one of the best things about this for me? I don’t have to be concerned about what to prepare for him to eat, and I don’t have to feel as though limiting our menu for our picky eater will limit the rest of our family and what we eat because there are, literally, tons of food choices onboard cruise ships.
Even with all the benefits of cruising outlined here, some may say that there are many all-inclusive land options that offer some of the perks mentioned here, and some may prefer those options, which is fine. I can say that I prefer cruising because I have experienced both land and sea vacations a number of times, and in experiencing both, I think that cruising is the best option for a family vacation.
One of the things that I love about cruising is that there are so many types of cruises that there is bound to be one that fits your style. Therefore, it may take a few cruises to find your best fit. Thankfully, I have yet to meet a cruise ship that I didn’t like, and I have had a number of ship experiences that I love. Some of that can be attributed to researching extensively prior to cruising, so that my family and I can be best prepared to explore and make the best of each ship on which we sail. Some of it can also be attributed to the fact that cruise vacations simply have lots to offer.
If you have cruised before, what do you look forward to the most on a cruise vacation?
If you have not yet cruised, what are you most excited to try, see, or do on your first cruise?