Family Cruises: Look Before You Book
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.
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.
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.
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.