Okay folks, let’s talk cruising. For those of you that have been on a cruise, I’d love to hear your thoughts too. For those of you new to cruising, curious about cruising, not interested in cruising, or simply are turned off by it, scoot a bit closer. I’m talking to you. Frankly, my dear, I used to be you.
I used to scoff at the bulging bulk of all those ships. I would turn my nose up at the blatant hedonistic buffets, and masses of humanity that would lazily float, nay, sludge through our oceans. I was afraid I would go stir-crazy, and feel trapped on a ship. I was skeptical about how much I would really see at port. Is a cruise really worth it?
Then I went on a cruise with my family, and I was changed.
My husband’s best friend had been trying to get us to cruise with them for years. They’ve been cruising for about half their lifetime, and their boys have been on more cruises than years they’ve been alive. So they are obvious fans.
In 2011, after a lot of research we embarked on our first cruise with our friends. I hope my cruising tips for families helps yours as you decide if cruising is for you.
Advantages of Family cruising:
- Unpack once
- Activities for multiple generations
- Visit many locations
- Fun and relaxing
Value is huge. When we first started looking into cruising, cost was an important factor. We didn’t want to spend a lot if we weren’t sure if we would be seasick, or uncomfortable, and we didn’t want to invest that kind of money into a vacation that would be a total bust.
So I prepared, and I researched. I bought sea bands for all of us, I packed the dramamine, and we were ready to deal with seasickness, if it happened. Thankfully, no one was sea sick.
In regards to price, we didn’t want to buy airfare for our first cruise. So leaving from Southern California was perfect for us Northern California peeps. The cruise I researched and eventually booked, was the Carnival Spirit that left on June 28, 2011. It was a 9-day Mexican Riviera cruise, and the price turned out to be $67 per person, per night for a balcony and interior connecting rooms. For a family of four that’s $268 per night. If you add in the $12 tip per person in your cabin, per day, the total comes up to $316 a night. You simply can’t beat that deal. That price includes all meals, snacks, room service, comedy shows, dance shows, musicals, water slides, pools, and more activities and kids club, plus two cabin rooms. It was a steal.
Also, we were able to unpack once. Just once. If you want to see multiple destinations without the hassle of lugging suitcases, keeping track of reservations, maps and more, dude, you cruise.
On board the ship there are multiple activities for people of all ages. I often see generations of families vacationing together. They can spend their day on their own doing whatever they fancy, from taking classes, having a spot of afternoon tea, enjoying a spa day, sliding around on water slides, soaking up the sun, working out at the gym, playing basketball, ping pong, ropes courses, art seminars, listening to piano music, hitting up a dance club, and then they can all come together for meals, or a family-friendly comedy show, or a musical revue. Convenience. It’s all at your fingertips, or mere steps from your cabin.
Let’s not forget that that price we paid meant I also didn’t have to make anyone’s bed, clean up anyone’s dishes, or plan a meal, I could just open up my book and read all day long if I wanted. The room stewards clean the room, and then return in the evening to turn down the beds and place a chocolate on the pillows. The dining staff will cater to your tastes. You want room service, just because? You can have it, it’s included in your price.
After we went on our first cruise, my husband and I looked at each other and wondered aloud why it took us this long to go on one.
There are many different kinds of cruises, and cruisers. There are cruisers that enjoy taking the same cruise to the same location, over and over, and over. That’s not really us. We like to visit new places, so we’re often the ones that plan our day, and are up as soon as the boat docks, so we can maximize our time exploring the port we’re interested in. Often the 2-4 day, short cruises are booze cruises. So be aware of that if you have children, and are looking for a different crowd to be around. Generally the longer cruises are more conducive to families. Some people don’t care where they’re going to cruise, they just enjoy the ship. I understand why retirees will simply book cruise after cruise, and just stay on the ship they enjoy. The service is so much better than an assisted living facility.
Bear in mind that not all cruise lines, and even ships within a cruise line are not created equal. All cruise lines have their own quirks, and specialties, as do their ships. Research is huge. One of my favorite resources is Cruise Critic. They have reviews and message boards, and a large community of cruisers who have been there, done that, and are damn proud about it. They are all happy to share their expertise and advice.
- Cruise Critic plus app
- Cheap Cruises
- US Dept of State Travel site
- Ship Mate app
- DisBoards plus app
- Cruise Line Rooms
- Trip Advisor
- Book early – if you need a passport you have time to get that done. The earlier you book, the better the cabin, and generally better the price. Most cruises only require a deposit to reserve your cabin. So the earlier you book, the longer you have to save.
- Cabin location – mid-ship is usually best if you think you may get sea sick. Carefully look at deck plans to see what could be above or below you. Generally the lower the deck the lower the price. Also if you add a 3rd or 4th person in your cabin, the price for them is less.
- On Board Credit (OBC)- you can get on board credit for most ships if the price drops from the price you purchased. You can use the difference aboard the ship, for excursions, spa visits, shop photos, specialty restaurants, etc… You have to be on top this, and you have to fill out the forms to get your OBC. Sometimes travel agents will offer this to sweeten your deal to book with them.
- Port Excursions – Booking excursions outside of the cruise line will save you a bundle. Check Cruise Critic to connect with others on your ship sailing, via the Roll Call message boards. Research port excursions via the message boards too. Trip Advisor also has reviews on various tour operators in the ports you visit.
- Bring reusable water bottles, you can fill-up on the Lido deck, or get water from room service to refill your bottles.
- Pack a flashlight with batteries, duct tape, small first aid kit, granola bars, a wrist watch. It’s always good to be prepared, just in case.
- Research – there’s a myriad of sites online. If you go to Europe, or the Mediterranean, I love Rick Steves.
- Kids eat off the real menu. Sure you can let them eat off the kids menu, but they can eat that crap anytime they want. Food is all included, let them, encourage them to try new things. It’s all paid for. Why not?
- Consult your ship’s daily schedule. You’ll receive it the night before. Plan your day around any classes, activities, entertainment you want to participate in. Or, do nothing at all.
- Relax and enjoy the ride. Go with a great attitude and you’ll have a good time. Things come up, just address them, and move on. It’s a vacation after all.
Look for my future posts about cruising Carnival to the Mexican Riviera, Baja Mexico, and Mediterranean. I’ll also share our cruise to the Eastern Caribbean aboard the Disney Fantasy. If you’re lucky, I may just give you some packing advice too.
If you have any further questions, I’d be happy to help answer them, just leave them in the comments.