What does cruising mean for grandparents? It’s yet another way to take youngsters vacationing with us, spending bonding time together, yet recognizing the kids’ need to play with their peers in what may be challenging surroundings. And, being on a full service multi-generational cruise, all together, actually gives us a break from full-time togetherness.
Here are some tried n’ true tips from a seasoned traveling grandma to help you decide whether a cruise vacation is right for you; plus questions you can ask about taking grandchildren to sea.
Cruises Appeal to Young Diners
Mealtimes aboard ships that get lots of young passengers feature menus with perennial favorites like hot dogs, chicken fingers hamburgers, pizza and macaroni-n-cheese just to name a few.
However, my husband and I found when we took our youngsters sailing that cruises offered a great opportunity for experimentation. Ours even got adventurous and tried escargots and Baked Alaska.
However, if the kids don’t care for the food being served, they can order another dish without worrying about the cost. And many of the newer ships feature a 24-hour buffet on the Lido deck, or a pizzeria, so if children are exhausted from a day of snorkeling or trudging around in high temperatures, they may choose a full dinner without dressing up.
Onboard a Cruise Ship, Activities Keep All Ages Busy
Among the best features of onboard kids’ programs are the highly trained, warm and outgoing counselors. Each of my grandchildren with whom I’ve sailed mentions their love for one of their counselors as among their favorite memories.
Don’t feel guilty about enrolling the grandkids in a supervised on board program, or on selective shore excursions designed for young cruisers. Youngsters today are often accustomed to participating in programs with other children and teachers or counselors in charge from an early age.
Molly’s Tips: What to Ask When Planning a Cruise
The newest, or at least the most recently redecorated ships, boast the widest variety of facilities and most creatively decorated day camp spaces, but their rates will certainly be higher than a fleet’s older ships.
- Consider price breaks. Look for deals off-season, with two grandparents in a cabin, the youngsters may sail free or get a reduced price as third- or fourth-passengers. Grandparents may want to book teens into an inside cabin near their own.
- Decide in advance if you’ll spend your mealtimes together. Especially for dinner, I find my grandkids and I can really focus on each other. However, when I took then-3-year-old Anna Staub on the Disney Wonder cruise ship, I asked her on the first day if she wanted to have lunch with me or with the other kids. She said I should pick her up, but, of course, when I went to get her, she said “Mimi, I think I’ll just eat with the other kids.”
- Check ahead to see if counselors will be aboard and if the kids’ program will be in place when you’re planning to cruise; some lines offer them year-round, while others trim back on activities,, or only host them during school vacations (summers, winter break, and spring break). Find out if the kids’ programs are complimentary or cost additional.
- Check on age divisions within organized programs; your teenagers won’t be happy if they’re lumped into a group with pre-teens.
- If you plan on shopping while in port and want to leave the youngster(s) aboard, make sure the program is in place for port days.
- Ditto for formal nights, when you may want to feel free to dress in your best finery and enjoy an adult evening.
- Not every child needs to be entertained with rock climbing walls and magician’s shows. One family aboard a Windstar cruise arranged for private cars and guides in each port so they could explore at their leisure.
There’s one last point, but it’s an important too. Don’t overlook the possibility of sailing aboard river cruises. River boat cruises that ply European Rivers (such as those offered by Viking River Cruises, where inland cities such as Vienna and Budapest are on the itineraries) or Egyptian rivers, sometimes offer fabulous deals for multi-generational groups. Often these seasonal promotions include two-for-one prices, even throwing in free airfare, which cuts per-person prices way down.
Is cruising for you? It is for us! Take a look at my round-up of what the major cruise lines are currently offering to grandparents and their grandchildren in “How To Pick The Right Cruise Line For Grandkids.”
Photographs for this story provided courtesy Molly Staub.
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