Wondering if a cruise is right for your family? Here are some helpful answers to common questions that can help you to decide!
Why a Family Cruise?
Cruising allows for family togetherness and also gives parents an opportunity (if they want) to be alone for a time, while the children are having fun close by in a well-supervised and safe environment.
Cruising is an especially good multi-generational getaway, because there's something for toddlers and teens, parents and grandparents.
Many modern ships are built with space specifically allotted for children's activities and are loaded with kid-friendly amenities, such as kiddie pools, playrooms, and playgrounds.
Most important, many cruise ships have extraordinary daily programs supervised by trained counselors and designed for many ages of kids (typically 3 and up). There may be nurseries and other child-care facilities for younger children as well as baby-sitting.
There's also no worry about where to eat (or how to pay for meals), with three meals a day included, plus alternate breakfast, lunch, and late-night buffets. And on most ships, room service is offered at no extra charge. Ships catering to kids have special menus made just for them. Some ships have pizzerias, ice-cream parlors, and casual restaurants quite unlike the formal dining rooms you might expect.
A cruise may not be the best option if your child doesn't enjoy time away from you in organized activities. Be sure to ask the cruise line which of their ships specializes in family cruises.
Isn't It Expensive?
Not necessarily. The cost for a family cruise varies widely depending on the season, the ship's itinerary, the port of departure, and when the reservation is made. A four-night Caribbean cruise may start as low as $600 per person, plus an additional cost per child (generally less than half the adult price).
When you consider that all your meals are included in the cost, as are most of the activities your family will enjoy, a cruise compares favorably with other vacations. Plus, all the planning is done for you. Think of it as an all-inclusive resort on the water.
How Can We Save Money?
Book at least four to six months in advance of when you would like to take a cruise. You'll get a great rate and have the advantage of the best choices of ship, itinerary, and cabin. (Cabins and suites sleeping four to five book up especially fast.)
Most ships offer early-booking discounts up to 50 percent off the brochure price and also discounts for additional guests staying in the same cabin.
If you can, be flexible with times and itineraries. This means there is a definite advantage for parents whose kids aren't in school (or those with young kids who can miss a few days of school). Depending on demand, you can save hundreds of dollars if you sail off-season.
Peak periods, when the prices are highest, are during holidays. You'll most likely find deals for the week before or after a major holiday.
Cruise consolidators purchase blocks of cabins for resale at a discount. They work like a travel agent, and may get you the best bargains.
You can get a discount if you book late (only one month before departure), but remember that your choices will be more limited. If you wait until one month before, your choices may be very limited.
What About Seasickness?
Don't worry, most big ships have built-in stabilizers to dampen the rolling sensation at sea.
If someone in your family has a history of motion sickness, you might want to book a room on a low level in the middle of the ship, where the rolling is less noticeable.
Ask when you make a reservation if your trip coincides with the hurricane season (when the seas are roughest) and talk with your doctor about over-the-counter or prescription remedies, just in case.
If you or anyone in your family does get sick, the onboard infirmary can provide assistance and medications.