This week, life surprised me by throwing some exciting opportunities my way. It’s my 40th birthday next month, and D and I are planning a romantic getaway to my favourite city in Europe: Amsterdam. We’d booked our tickets for the Eurostar. Childcare was sorted.
And then, BOOM. On precisely the same weekend as our Amsterdam break, the family was invited on board Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, for its launch weekend, to see first-hand how well the new facilities suited children and adults.
The two trips clashed. I’d spent a grand day on board another Royal Caribbean liner, the Oasis of the Seas, so I was pretty sure the weekend on board the Anthem would have been a lot of fun. But there was no way to change the arrangements for Amsterdam. We’d been looking forward to that trip for months, so sadly we had to turn down the cruise.
Gutted. But in the meantime I thought I’d have a scout around, to find out some of the information I would have gleaned on board the Anthem.
Here are some top tips for family cruises:
Holidaying with babies can be tricky due to the endless list of products you have to bring to keep baby safe, comfortable and happy. However, many cruise ships offer the basics, so you can save a little packing space for duty-frees.
- Pre-order nappies, formula milk, pushchairs and cribs at least two weeks before boarding the ship.
- Check if the cruise line offers a night time nursery, so you can enjoy a peaceful meal at least once during the trip.
- Make sure baby meets the minimum age requirement for the cruise line. Most lines won’t allow babies under six months aboard the ship (or 12 months for longer haul journeys).
- Look for cruises departing from and returning to your country of residence – so you don’t have to take baby on a flight.
- Book a balcony cabin so you can sit and enjoy the sea breeze whilst keeping an eye on your sleeping baby in the cabin.
Modern cruise ships are fortunately large enough to accommodate the boundless energy of toddlers and younger children.
- Pick a cruise line with a free laundry service – so you don’t have to pack four changes of clothes for every day at sea for messy toddlers.
- Check the children’s clubs and activities for young children so they can play with their peers.
- Check if the excursions involve long bus journeys – for your sake and the sake of fellow passengers.
- Book with cruise lines which offer plenty of dining options for fussy-eating toddlers.
- Once aboard, explore the ship for empty or quiet lounges so toddlers can have a little explore and run around.
Entertaining cruise ships are the order of the day for primary school-age kids.
- Disney cruises are predictably well-suited for this age, with a wide range of Disney-centric activities such as classic films under the stars and character meet-ups.
- Try and book dinner seatings well in advance, so you’re not stuck with the late seating and cranky children.
- Explore the full range of activities aboard the ships before booking – there are plenty of activities for 5-11 year olds provided by the major cruise lines.
- Ensure the kids are split into age-specific groups – so your five year old isn’t overwhelmed and your 11 year old isn’t bored.
- Keep adventurous children topped up with water and sunscreen at all times.
Perhaps the most difficult demographic to keep happy. It’s a good idea to select a cruise line which offers teens a little freedom – as they undoubtedly want a little time away from mum and dad (and vice versa).
- Select a ship with teens-only areas so they can relax with their peers.
- Encourage them to attend a teens’ club on the first night – the easiest time to make friends.
- The newer ships from Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line include on-board messaging tools so you can keep in touch with your teens and remind them of their curfew.
- Try and book a drinks package so they can help themselves to soft drinks and hot drinks without asking you for money every five minutes.
- Consider a cruise with 24 hour buffet so teens can schedule their own eating times (usually in accordance to their late morning/early afternoon awakenings).
Do you have any top tips for cruising with children?