The husband and I used to cruise before we had children and loved it. We are in the process of planning our first one as a family as we have yet to take the kids.
Cruise ships have so much to do onboard that everyone can find something to do to and have fun. Kids zone, splash/water parks, zip-lines, skating, wall climbing, movies, character meets and so much more. Cruise ships tend to be very family friendly and many have areas just for kids or just adults which keep all passengers happy.
Here are my top 6 tips:
1) The first step is research. Put together a list of what you’re looking for and compare. Pricing, room size, staff, activities for the kids. Let the kids be involved in planning your family cruise especially if you have tweens/teens. Take their opinions into consideration with the final choice.
2) Arrive at least one day before you set sail. Flights can be delayed, traffic and construction or even lost luggage would be a stressful and horrible way to start your vacation. On one trip our ship left out of Port Canaveral so we arrived the night before and stayed in Orlando. We even went to Universal City Walk and had dinner at Margaritaville. It was a fun night and in the morning we had a short drive to the ship.
3) Pack properly. This doesn’t just mean what to bring for the entire trip but what you will need to have with you when you first board. Luggage is delivered to your cabin and it can be hours later. So anything you need or think you may need during this time; be sure to have on hand. Some things to consider is swimwear for heading to the pool and maybe an outfit for dinner after. For the trip itself, you don’t want to be stuck without essentials so be sure to have plenty of wipes, diapers, formula if used and/or baby food. Strollers are limited on ships so be sure to ask for one right away or bring your own.
4) Know your options for childcare. Is there a nursery for babies? Do they offer evening babysitting? What does their camps/youth programs entail? Try to visit the Kids Club on embarking as this will give you and your child a chance to feel comfortable and to meet some of the other kids on board.
5) Food. Does anyone have allergies? Are members of your family picky? Many ships do have 24/7 room service, all day cafes and several dining options to choice from. Be sure to check out what your ship offers and if it will fit your families needs.
6) Room. A standard room is small. Very small. But honestly, as a couple, we were fine since we only slept in the room. We were running around enjoying the pool, shows, games, bars-everything. But when you add kids, a little elbow room can be a good thing. Ask about family category rooms.
Now, what if you have a child with Autism or other special needs? The required answers to the above change greatly from the average family. But don’t stress for it is still possible and enjoyable. I recommend looking into Autism On The Seas.
Autism on the Seas, a national organization, has been in collaboration with Royal Caribbean International since 2007 in developing cruise vacation services to accommodate adults and families living with children with Special Needs, including, but not limited to, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and all Cognitive, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. These services quickly expanded to other cruise lines. Our Staffed Cruises continue to meet and exceed our guests expectations.
Our Staffed Cruises are selected from regular cruises throughout the year, and we assist adults and families in accommodating the typical cruise services, as well as providing specialized Respite and Private Activities/Sessions that allow our guests the use of the ships entertainment venues in an accommodated and assisted manner. Our professional Staff (educated, experienced, background checked and sanctioned by the cruise lines) accompanies you on your cruise to provide these amazing vacation and travel experiences onboard Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Disney and Carnival Cruise Lines.
Autism On The Seas will make sure everyone in your family will have a great time and take away a lot of the worry and stress of traveling with special needs. Reserved seating and care, private sessions and expedited boarding and disembarkation.
For families that don’t need or want the much assistance, you can still cruise on your own but have Autism On The Seas provides a “Cruise Assistance Package” free with booking. This includes: their guidance and consultation on any concerns, needs or issues guests may have, priority boarding, priority disembarkation, customized accommodated muster drills, information on guests children delivered to the cruise line youth staff, excursion reviews by our past guests, special name tags for children, AotS t-shirts and so much more.
Cruising is a great way to see the world and let your children experience different cultures and places.