My husband and I have been ‘cruisers’ for more than 10 years. In that time we have had the pleasure of sailing on more than 14 boats with 5 cruiselines.
Even though I would consider us experienced, sailing with kids adds a different level of challenges.
From the planning, to the packing and the execution, every time we add another child to our family – each trip gets more difficult.
To help with this, here are some cruising travel tips I have learned:
- Book Early. Years ago booking last minute was the thing to do. Now, many serious cruisers book a year or TWO in advance in order to secure the perfect cabin in the right location. Family cabins, larger suites and balconies go quick so if you are looking to stay in one of these rooms put a deposit down as soon as you choose your ship. The bonus to this is that most cruise centers don’t need the cruise to be paid in full until 90 days before the boat is scheduled to set sail. So if the price of the cruise comes down before you pay for the cruise in full you can have the travel company do a price adjustment for you. Additionally, watch for a deposit discount sales and 1 day sales on your boat to make sure that you are getting the best price.
- Book a balcony. While cabins aboard any ship are small, they get that much smaller when you add a little adventurer and all of their gear. Having a balcony is nice as it adds a bit of extra space that we could use to keep the kids happy. Recently we have booked suites in order to get, yet, a bit more room and a bathtub for our boys. Depending on the cruise line you choose suites can range from just a few hundred more per person all the way up to double your fare. But if you book early you may be able to choose one that is in the mid range rather than having to choose an owner’s suite because everything else is sold out. My pick for reasonable suite prices is Princess Cruise Lines.
- Arrive the day before! One thing we have learned form traveling with the kids is to take it easy. Flying all day and then starting a busy cruise can sometimes be too much for little ones. In the last few years we have arrived a day or two before the cruise is due to start in order to leave lots of time for air delays. This is also a nice way to unwind and relax before boarding the ship.
- Even if you have 2 small children or a set of twins bring 2 single strollers. Narrow halls and doorways would have made it virtually impossible for us to get our double side-by-side through through the ship, into washrooms or through the lido restaurant.
- If you are traveling with young children try to choose an itinerary with a couple days at sea. Getting off the boat every day is somewhat tiring, which makes it hard to keep a sleep schedule. Our day at sea was great because we didn’t have to be anywhere we could just go at our own pace.
- Pack snacks. Even though cruises are known for their huge selection of food choices, we found that having some pre-packaged treats from home (goldfish, mini Doritos, craisons, pringles) made great beach snacks. It was also nice for the kids to have something to munch on while we were getting ready for dinner or to go out to a show. We also grabbed fruit and dry cereal from the buffet in the morning to snack on while at the beach as well.
- Skip Ship Excursions. Unless you are looking to do something specialized like a trip to a close by island, swim with dolphins or snorkel/scuba dive an exclusive reef, organize your excursion when you get off the ship. Many local taxi drivers will be waiting once the ship docks to take you an island tour, to the beach or shopping. They can also tell you which beach is the best, safest or most calm on that day. While some islands have a pre-determined fare for each point of interest, others are still negotiable.