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Top tips for family cruises

Oasis of the Seas

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.

Oasis of the Seas

Modern cruise liners are often more like luxury hotels. Oasis of the Seas, docked in Southampton

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:

Babies

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.
balcony

A balcony room can mean an evening under the stars without having to leave the room

Toddlers

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.
cruise kids' club

Toddlers and older children may enjoy cruise kids’ clubs

5-11

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.
cruise spa

Chance for some me-time while the kids are occupied?

Teens

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? Save

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20 Comments

  • Phoebe @ Lou Messugo
    March 20, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I’ve been on one cruise with kids who were 7 and 13 at the time and I’d say your tips for their ages are good ones. The ship we went on had a teens club which was perfect for a bit of teenage independence.

    Reply
  • Jen aka Muminthemadhouse
    March 20, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I was invited too, but the thought of a cruise just makes me feel sick. I get sea sick you see!

    Reply
    • Nell
      March 20, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Oh no! Sounds as though it’s not for you..(although I’m told that you don’t often feel as though you’re at sea because the ships are so large…)

      Reply
  • Erica Price
    March 20, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    We loved cruising. My son wasn’t really interested in clubs and activities, so we used the cruise liner as a mobile hotel and spent a lot of time sightseeing or by the pool. Early sittings for dinner are important I’d say, but you can usually get food at any time of the day or night on a cruise ship.

    Reply
  • Monika @family{m}adventures
    March 20, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Oh I’m gutted you won’t be able to come on that trip! Though I have no doubt you will have a wonderful time in Amsterdam instead. I LOVE that city.

    These are excellent tips for families new to cruising. I didn’t think of the balcony suite, but make a lot of sense!

    Reply
    • Nell
      March 20, 2015 at 8:30 pm

      Ah I’m sorry to miss you – have a wonderful time!

      Reply
  • The Diary Of A Jewellery Lover
    March 20, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    I’ve been invited and decided I am going. This ship is one of the most technologically advanced in the worlds and with 18 restaurants and cafes and entertainment too I would be mad not to go.

    Reply
  • Stephen
    March 20, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    I have never been on a cruise, im not too sure how I feel about being trapped on a massive boat.

    Reply
  • Jaime Oliver
    March 20, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    We have been saying for the last 3 years that we would book a cruise .. must get my act together i adore the sea 😉

    Hope you have the most amazing time in Amsterdam x

    Reply
  • Kate Thompson
    March 20, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Great tips – but nothing on earth would tempt me on a cruise with my lot lol!!!

    Reply
  • Mums do travel
    March 21, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Great tips, especially the one about sunscreen as it’s easy to burn when you’re out at sea. What a shame that the trip dates clashed – but I’m sure that you’ll have a wonderful time in Amsterdam. I went on my first cruise last year and didn’t feel seasick at all even though I’d expected to.

    Reply
  • Rachel
    March 22, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I am on the fence about crusies, I think I would like a short one, but spending weeks on a ship scares me slightly x

    Reply
  • Shell Louise
    March 22, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    What a shame it clashed with your trip. I hope you have a wonderful time 🙂

    Reply
  • Sarah Bailey
    March 22, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    I have never been on a cruise it is something I would love to experience one day though. x

    Reply
  • ninjacat
    March 23, 2015 at 9:59 am

    we have yet to go on a cruise as a family

    Reply
  • Liz Burton
    March 23, 2015 at 11:30 am

    We’ve never done a cruise and I assumed there wouldn’t be a lot for my daughter to do. Seems I was wrong!

    Reply
  • Kara
    March 23, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I would really love to go on a cruise

    Reply
  • Charlotte Braithwaite
    March 23, 2015 at 11:58 am

    I really want to take my family on a cruise it would be amazing!
    I don’t have any in mind just yet but these tips are perfect.
    Thank you
    Charlotte x

    Reply
  • Globalmouse
    March 23, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    We loved cruising and can’t wait to go again – the children still talk about it!

    Reply
  • agatapokutycka
    March 24, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    I’ve never been on the cruise but I would love to experience a trip like this.

    Reply

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