Friday, October 26, 2012

Cruising with Little Kids

Many may agree that vacationing with little kids is not really that "relaxing" and can be more "work" than just the normal weekly routine at home.  When you are in a different environment, sleep schedules can get thrown off which can add a layer of fussiness.  Plus, being around the little ones 24/7 may take some adapting to especially if one or both parents are usually at work during the day.  It can lead to some stressful moments where parenting styles may differ or issues not dealt with before may arise.

I think cruising is an awesome option for parents with little kids who are planning a family vacation.  These are some of my reasons why:

When we add up the rooming costs as well as food and entertainment, cruising can be a very economical way to take a week long vacation.  Of course, it depends on what you are comparing to (camping will probably be less expensive)... but especially if you get a great cruise deal (like sometimes Disney has a 'kids cruise free' deals), it can totally be worth it.

Avoid Airport Hassle
At least for us, there are several drivable cruise ports (NYC, NJ, and MD)  It is such a pain with little ones to go through the whole airport check-in fiasco with carseats, toddler bottles etc. and if still nursing the whole nursing bag etc.  Cruising is a great way to get to a far place (like a remote island in the middle of winter) and not have to fly there!

Break from the kids
Yes, we do want to spend time with our kids when we are on vacation.  However, it is *huge* to have a few hours here or there where you can leave them with kid friendly crew for kiddie activities while you spend some quality time with just your spouse.  Even just a few hours away gives me a refreshed spirit and extra patience to deal with the physical needs of my little ones.  Plus, the kids have a blast (at least they did on Disney... but I'm sure they would on other cruise lines as well).

Mealtime convenience
I love how we do not have to figure out what we are going to eat every night... or breakfast or lunch for that matter!  Sometimes figuring out food is the most stressful part of vacation.  Plus, if you travel in a large group it is not always easy to get everyone to agree on cuisine and it can easily become very costly if you eat out every night.  On a ship there are a multiple options.  You can sit down and be served every night (which is nice when you have little kids) or you can choose to do a buffet or just grab fast food or even stay in and get room service!  There are plenty of options for picky toddler eaters and the staff is usually very accommodating and can even puree food for babies.  On the Disney Cruise lines, there is the option to leave the kids in the Oceanear Club where they get fed dinner while the parents enjoy mealtime alone.  I believe this option may be available in other cruise lines but you may have to pay for it.

Options for entertainment
If you pick the right ship, there are a multitude of activities for adults only, kids only, and both.  We usually like Royal Caribbean because they have more physical outdoorsy and sportsy activities (like rock climbing walls and ice skating rinks).  Recently, we went on a Disney Cruise which was awesome for the kids but didn't have as many choices for activities for my husband and I.  However, we are pretty active and prefer more sporty type of activities.  I'm sure they have plenty of entertainment on board for other adult folks since there were many adults on the ship... even adults without kids!  But regardless of cruise line, it is nice that there always seems to be a movie theater on board as well as plenty of lounges and places to hang out.  So once the kids are asleep (which is usually pretty early if they are young) you can either take turns going out or travel with grandparents who are more than happy to watch the kids sleep while you slip out together for some late night movie or something.  Some cruises will even have in-cabin babysitting for a nominal fee.  It is much harder to arrange this type of night life when you are in a hotel or house somewhere.  Plus, you'd have to drive somewhere rather than just take the elevator up or down a few floors to get to your entertainment.

So those are just a few of the reasons that I can think of why I like to cruise.  Things to consider when choosing a cruise include:

Destination and Ports of Call
You save a lot of hassle and money if you pick a departure port that you don't have to fly to.  The other issue has to do with seasickness.  Usually, the ship is big enough that you do not really feel the rocking.  However, the rocking also depends on time of year and where the ship is going.  So for those who get seasick, it would be worth it to do more research and go to ports during times of year where there is minimal ship "rockiness".  

Length of Cruise and Type of Ship
The larger the ship, the more activities and options there are.  Usually the larger ships are reserved for longer cruise nights.  So it is possible that if we cruised with a larger Disney ship there may have been more that my husband and I would find fun to do.  7 nights is probably a pretty average time frame where you get the larger boats.  We had chosen a 5 night trip which seemed plenty because our third child was only 14 months and we weren't sure how the kids would do sleeping all together in the same room.  Given the extra cost of cruising with Disney versus other cruise lines... we are probably leaning on just sticking with Royal Caribbean in the future.  Carnival is supposed to be very good for kid friendly activities in addition to being the most economical.  We just have not tried it yet because of previous bad reputation for food.  However, I believe the new lines have really improved in this area.

Well... I'm already looking into and planning our next cruise trip.  In another blog I'll spell out the differences between going to Disney with little kids versus cruising with Disney on a ship!