IF YOU’RE considering a family holiday with a difference, why not consider a cruise? Here is our two part guide to planning a family holiday at sea. This week: Making sure you choose the right cruise.
Forget about the traditional image of retired colonels and delicate widows gently strolling the decks or sitting down for formal dinners, cruises are perfect for multi-generational family holidays! Children seem to love cruises and many cruise lines have recognised the previously untapped market for families with children.
Because cruises offer something for all ages, families can have fun together or have fun with others of their peer group, all in one vacation spot. In addition, because almost all of the major costs of a cruise are included in the base price, it makes budgeting for a family easier. Your children can eat what they want (and as much as they want) without a corresponding shrinkage of your wallet. Cruises are like a big all-inclusive resort, except they move across the water, providing new vistas each day for the entire family.
Do your research
Finding the right cruise for your family involves some research. Most cruise lines allow children on board, but not all design activities specifically for them. Here are some basic questions you should ask your travel agent and/or find out from the cruise line when selecting a cruise for a family with children.
• What are the age restrictions for the cruise line?
• Do my children’s ages qualify them for a discount?
• Does the website and/or brochure of the cruise line feature children in the pictures? (If not, it’s probably not designed for kids).
• Is there a special place or playroom dedicated for children?
• What is there for teens to do?
• Are the special activities and child/teen centre available at the time we wish to cruise?
• Will my children find the ports of call interesting? If not, is there enough to keep them happy on board?
• Are discounts available for a third and/or fourth person in our cabin?
• Are cribs and/or day beds or cots available to put in our room? If so, is there a rental fee?
• Are adjoining cabins available? (If you have a large or extended family).
• How big are the cabins?
• Are guardrails available for bunk beds?
• Does the menu offer food my children will eat?
• Is there a children’s menu available for each meal?
• Is early seating available or does the liner have “open” seating so that we can eat at a time close to when the children normally dine?
• What activities are planned for children?
• Is there a children only pool available on board?
• Will there be special movies or live entertainment that children will enjoy?
• Are there any shore excursions scheduled that are geared toward children?
• Is there a babysitting service available?
• What are the hours and costs for the babysitting service?
Child care centre or teen centre
• What are the requirements for placing a child in the centre such as age, vaccinations, or potty training?
• How are the children’s areas supervised?
• Is the teen centre supervised?
• What are the hours, costs and restrictions on the centres?
• What is the ratio of children to adult staff in the children’s centre?
• How are the staff trained in the children’s centre? Do they know how to perform CPR on children and infants?
• Are the staff working in the children’s centre insured?
Next week – a summary of each of the major cruise lines and what they have on offer for children and young adults.