Thinking about setting sail as a family? You are not alone. According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), 42 percent of cruise parties travel with children under the age of 18. Why? Because today’s cruise lines offer a little something for everyone all in one place.
“Cruising is a very economical way for families to travel, oftentimes coming in lower in price than a traditional beach vacation,” says Kristen Buckshire, owner and travel advisor with Travel Ease LLC. “The other advantage to cruising with little ones is the ability to visit multiple destinations with only having to unpack once. For us moms, cruising is a real treat because we don’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning a vacation rental, allowing you some time to relax and be taken care of.”
The key to a successful family cruise is finding the right fit for your family. Let’s Go On a Cruise! Below are a few things to consider before setting sail:
Make sure the kids’ programming is a good match
Keep your kids’ ages and personalities in mind when selecting a ship. All cruise lines divide their youth programming into age-appropriate groups, but different lines take different approaches toward those age groupings. Some offer very narrow age ranges, like 3 to 5, 6 to 8, etc., while others opt for wider groupings, like 8 to 12. You know what will work best for your kids. If you are traveling with an infant, you may want to consider cruise lines that offer a drop-off nursery.
Also consider the types of activities your children gravitate towards on land, and then be sure at least some of those are available at sea. Have an active kid? Look for ships with athletic activities like rock climbing and zip lining. Water-loving kids will appreciate a ship with multiple pools and waterpark-like features. If you are traveling with teens, look for ships that offer designated teen programming and hangout spots.
Opt for travel insurance
Flight delays, illnesses and weather conditions are just a few of the things that can bring even the best-laid plans to a screeching halt. Purchasing cruise-line insurance can help protect you from loss of nonrefundable advance payments, trip interruption fees and costs of on-board or overseas medical emergencies that are likely not covered by your medical insurance.
“Any time you are planning a family getaway, it is extremely important to protect your investment with travel protection,” Buckshire says. “Travel protection is something that you will hopefully never have to use, but when you need it, it’s worth its weight in gold.”
Pick the right excursions for your family
Most cruise lines have a wide range of excursions to choose from — everything from cooking classes to snorkeling and deep sea diving. “Be careful when selecting shore excursions, as many have strict age requirements as to who can participate,” Buckshire says. “Kids love animal-based excursions, such as stingray experiences, dolphin encounters and eco parks. Many times, a simple beach day is a great option for families, so you aren’t tied to a specific amount of time that comes with a more formal excursion.”
Get help from the professionals
According to CLIA, 70 percent of guests book their trip with a travel planner, and for good reason. “Working with a travel planner, such as the planners at Travel Ease LLC, should be the first step in planning any cruise line vacation,” Buckshire says.
The perks of using a travel planner go well beyond cost savings. A good travel planner is well-versed in the ins and outs of various cruise lines, as well as the specific offerings on those lines. “Our cruise specialists have hands-on experience with a wide variety of cruise lines and destinations to help you determine the best fit for your family,” Buckshire says. “After assisting you in finding the perfect cruise line and ship, we assist you in finding the best stateroom category and stateroom location to fit your budget. We pride ourselves on making connections with travel suppliers around the globe so that we can provide you with quality shore excursions suggestions geared toward families.”