Family Cruises: Look Before You Book

Family cruises provide some of the best vacation memories for everyone involved, and the stress level is low because most everything is included in the price of the cruise. But before you book, you need to make sure the cruise provides everything needed for the entire clan. If not, parents or children could end up not being able to enjoy the care-free getaway on the high seas that they expected.

Look for these things before you book:

A good family cruise should provide activities geared toward all age levels of children. For instance, Royal Caribbean cruises provide programs for ages 0-3, 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, and teenagers. These programs are included in the cruise price, and provide much-needed interaction with peer groups – especially important for tweens and teens.

Child Care
Family cruises need to have places where parents can leave the children in good hands while they engage in adult-oriented activities. Examples of these are Camp Carnival on Carnival Cruise Line ships or Adventure Ocean on Royal Caribbean.

Family Fun
When researching family cruises, make sure there is a range of activities that the entire family can enjoy together. Disney Cruise Lines does this well, with Broadway-caliber Disney shows, poolside parties, and family-friendly port adventures – including on Disney's own Castaway Cay in the Abacos Islands. The Nickelodeon at Sea program on Norwegian Cruise Line offers the family a chance to dance and sing with SpongeBob or Dora, or even be "slimed" together.

Adult Time
Ensure there are places for parents to enjoy some necessary together time while the children are otherwise occupied. Whether it's an adults-only pool, a cocktail lounge, a dance club or the casino (Warning: Disney has no casinos on its ships), it's important for the grown-ups to have a stress-free place to get away for a little while to make sure everyone relaxes on a family cruise.

While researching which family cruise is best for you, ask around. A friend, church member or co-worker with children at ages close to yours may be able to offer advice as to which cruises are the most – or least – family-friendly. Also, go on the Internet and look at reviews of the cruises you are most interested in. Don't let one or two sour reviews dissuade you; there are folks out there who aren't happy with anything. If the reviews are mostly positive, then it's likely a good choice.

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