How to Cruise with Kids – Part 3
Have you ever taken a family cruise? Have you thought that a cruise was out of the question for a family vacation because it would be too difficult with kids? Well, I’m here to change your mind! Cruising is great as a family – even if you have a full house! We recently took eight kids on a week-long Caribbean cruise and I’m going to give you lots of tips and tricks on how to cruise with kids from the very beginning planning stages, right through your trip.
This is not a sponsored post. We just love cruising as a family and want to encourage other families to give it a try – even large families.
This is part three in a three-part series about how to cruise with kids.
Part 1 will cover the PLANNING stage. This includes why a cruise is a great family vacation in the first place. We’ll go over your basic choices, discuss the breakdown of costs and help make a countdown for your trip.
Part 2 will cover PREPARATION. You’ll find out what to bring on a cruise with the family, how to pack for a cruise with kids and supply a great packing list to help you have it all together on boarding day.
Part 3 will discuss the ADVENTURE of life on board and how to survive it with the kids along. We’ll talk about things to do with kids on a cruise and give a few tips on how to cruise with a toddler. This is definitely not a couples cruise. You’re going to need a plan.
How to Cruise with Kids Part 3 – The Adventure
If you’ve read parts 1 and 2 already, you’ve got some background on how to cruise with kids, what to bring on a cruise, and even how to pack for a cruise. Today we’re going to share tips about taking this adventure, beginning with embarkation.
I recommend gathering all of your paperwork and information: boarding passes, travel insurance, any proof of onboard credit or other reservations in a plastic folder for easy retrieval and access during your vacation. You’ll save yourself time by having an easily identifiable folder in your carry-on bag at the pier and while on the ship. You can even place your birth certificates in this folder and transfer them to your cabin safe later.
It’s also a good idea to have some snacks in your carry-on to keep the kids satisfied while you wait. Depending on what time you arrive at the pier, you may not be allowed to board the ship instantly. They have to make sure the ship is cleared of all the passengers from the previous sailing. Sometimes you will find water and cookies in the terminal, but don’t count on this.
Often you’re not allowed to go immediately to your cabin upon boarding. So, take in some lunch or relax by the pool until the stateroom corridors are open.
So, you made it on board in one piece. Let’s talk about things to do with kids on a cruise.
Your ship will be your home for the duration. If you have kids, choose a ship that will offer activities and things to entertain them. Our ship had a nice kids pool, a rock climbing wall, basketball, several pools, and a movie theater. We were never bored or lacking for things to do.
You’ll receive a printed schedule each night in your stateroom. It will outline all of the activities and shows that will take place the following day. Bring a highlighter and mark what you’d like to do. We participated in things like a mini golf tournament, bean bag toss game, Zumba on deck, and a jewelry-making class to name a few. All free!
Most mainstream cruise lines offer free kids clubs on board. There will be certain times when you can drop your children off and they will have activities and crafts for them. Sometimes they do special events like late-night parties. With the exception of checking out the facilities on the first night, we didn’t set foot in the kids club. My kids were not interested but it is a great option for parents.
There is also usually a special area designated for teenage cruisers. Again, our teens did not want to join in the activities there, but they are available. You should receive a daily schedule each night for the teen club as well. If not, ask your room steward for one.
Your ship will offer excursions (day trips) in each port that you visit. These will cost you an extra fee per person and sometimes have limitations on age and health. If you have the budget to do a shore excursion, we recommend going with a ship sponsored tour if you are a first-time family cruiser. This offers you some advantages in that the ship will wait for you if your tour is running late. My husband took the three oldest on a zip lining tour in Jamaica and it was definitely a highlight.
If you are a seasoned cruiser you may feel more comfortable going on your own in ports. Some ports are more amenable to this. Georgetown, Grand Cayman for example. You can save a bit of money by taking one of the widely available taxis to the beach for a few hours. We did this with the kids, but it was our second time there and we were comfortable doing it.
You’ll have to gauge your comfort level and the risk you want to take on missing the ship if you decide to go on your own.
An alternative would be to just do some light exploring in the port area after you disembark and then head back on board and enjoy a nearly empty ship. We did this in two of our three ports. Oftentimes there will be shopping at the port itself. It’s an easy way to spend a little time checking out a new country and then getting in some pool time by yourselves.
How to Cruise With a Toddler
Each day I would bring our two youngest back to our inside cabin after lunch to “rest”. My 3 year old would say he wasn’t tired, but he slept every time. The nice thing about an inside cabin is the complete darkness you will have even in the middle of the day. I would put them in bed, close the room dividing curtain and watch the ship television or do some journaling. My husband would take the older kids out and about to a movie or to play mini golf. It was about an hour of downtime for the little kids – and myself – that helped them to last throughout the afternoon and dinner.
A great thing to look for when you have babies or very young kids is an empty lounge. A beautiful room with couches and chairs that might be crowded and busy at night, is often a ghost town during the day. They often have great views of the ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows as well. Find one of these lounges and make it yours during the day. Bring color books, crayons, and small toys for the kids to play with and let the baby practice her walking skills.
You probably won’t make it to the show each night when you’re cruising with little kids. Take turns with your spouse. One night you take the littles to bed while he takes the older ones to the family show. The next night, switch. If you’re comfortable with it, lots of ships offer evening kids club activities or in-room babysitting (for a fee).
Don’t forget to bring all of the baby necessities. Check out our packing list from this post. You won’t be able to run to the corner store for anything so come very prepared.
Now that we’ve given you a few ideas for things to do with kids on a cruise, we hope you’ll consider one for your next family vacation! And, before you go, check out this post for what NOT to do on a family cruise. Happy Sailing!