Many people have asked us how we like cruising with all of our kids. They assume cruising with kids is stressful, overwhelming, not fun, or is hard. Well, I am here to tell you ANY vacation with kids is not easy, but cruising is actually one of our preferred methods. Even now that we have four kids, and one is still a toddler.
For us, the pros of cruising with the kids outweigh the cons. I do think it really depends on your kids though. There are certain personalities that would not do well on a cruise ship in the middle of the water and there are kids that get seasick (although that is way more common with adults).
If you are debating taking a family cruise, here’s a few great tips that we have learned along the way. Maybe they can help you in your decision making or planning process.
If you have not cruised with kids before, the length of the trip matters. Personally, I would not go over 5 nights for the first cruise. However, I also don’t feel 3 nights is enough, unless you live close to a port.
Longer cruises tend to have more sea days and stops. Basically, if you don’t like it or if your child does get seasick, you have to deal with it for a longer period. So it’s always good to try a shorter cruise first.
If you choose a super short cruise and don’t live near a port, it’s a lot of planning! That is a lot of packing and travel for just a few days. It also doesn’t give you a lot of time to “settle in”. I really think you can’t get a good feel for cruising, with kids, in such a short amount of time. You haven’t had enough time to establish a daily cruise “routine”.
I’ve said it a hundred times. The boat matters! You’d think that any cruise ship is a vacation but, not with kids. I talk about this in my post on cruising without using the kid’s program. Basically, some ships are kid friendly, and some are not.
When you cruise with kids, you need a family friendly boat. Not just one with a kid’s program or a water slide. Different cruise lines and ships offer different things. Our last cruise, on the Mariner of the Seas, was great for the older kids but, not so much for the little ones. Our kids don’t want to go in the kid’s program, so we needed to have ways to entertain.
Also remember, most ships won’t allow children that aren’t potty trained in any of the water areas. So, you’ve got to pick a boat that fulfills the needs of all the age groups you have. It’s not fun having a crying toddler who wants to go in the pool with their siblings.
There are ships that offer IMAX theatres, roller coasters, ice skating rinks, laser tag, teen lounges, characters, video games, arcades, surfing, bounce pads, waterslides, splash pads, mini golf, games, toy areas, and much much more. Do your research!
Planning Your Stops
We book all of our shore excursions through the cruise line. Not only because it’s easier, but I feel like it is safer too. When you are traveling with the kids, hopping in a random taxi may not be the best idea. I think you can plan them privately before you arrive at the destinations, as well, but we have never done that.
We have always had a good experience booking through the cruise line. They aren’t cheap but I think they’re worth the extra cost. Most times toddlers are free, and you can find a family friendly option. The boat basically shuttles you, has a guide, and does the “planning” for you. They are also able to account for you and know where you went when you got off the boat.
This is a big one. Packing for a family cruise, with kids, is a lot different than packing for an all-adult cruise! I’m sure you know that kids require a lot more and especially when you have multiple.
There are so many neat products that can be packed to help you on your cruise. Check out my post that give you 15 must have items for your family cruise. This will help guide you on all the fun stuff you can pack and give little hacks to help you out.
In general, make sure you pack for all your activities. Lots of people forget the formal night on the ship or the tropical attire night. Research your cruise and know what types of clothing you will need or want. Don’t forget shoes! Funny story, we actually were on a boat with a basketball court and forgot tennis shoes for our son. You weren’t allowed to wear open toed shoes on the courts and therefore, he could not play.
Also, on most cruises you can bring on a fair amount of drinks and snacks. Many people don’t know that. It saves a ton of money but also allows your kids to have their favorites. Often times, you can’t find the same snacks they are used to on board.
Those are the big things but, here are a few other great things to think about:
- Room choice can make a difference. Be sure to read my post on choosing a stateroom for your family cruise.
- Stick to your routine! Most kids really thrive on a routine and that is what they know. When you start mixing that up, meltdowns are inevitable. We like to stick to our same eating times, nap times, and bedtimes for our sanity.
- Go over safety first. Before you even get on the ship, talk to your kids about safety. Not only acting safely but, things like what to do if you get lost. Ships can be big and hard to navigate. Tell them your room number and what floor you are on repeatedly.
- Arrive a day early. We like to arrive a day before the cruise so that we are not so rushed in the morning. We stay at a hotel overnight and book a later boarding time to cut down on wait times and lines.
- Once you book, use the app. You can schedule your daily activities and look at all the excursions. Some things need to be booked early or they will sell out! Especially cabanas on beaches.
- Plan your Wi-Fi. When you are at sea you will not have Wi-Fi unless you are using your cell carrier or have purchased the boat’s Wi-Fi. Talk to your cell carrier! People have racked up hundreds of dollars in bills for roaming or international usage charges.
Lastly, involve your kids in the cruise planning and start conversations early. (unless it’s a surprise) Having the conversation and setting expectations can really go a long way. We like to watch videos of the ship, talk about the food, and plan our activities together.
Hope this has helped you plan a fun family cruise with your kids. Enjoy your trip, take tons of photos, and make lots of memories!
Kristy M., Mommy to Many