Cruise Lifestyle

5 reasons a cruise is perfect for family vacations

One of the easiest and most affordable family holiday options is a cruise. Cruise vacations are easy to plan compared to land holidays, they’re kid-friendly (with the right cruise line) and the perfect way to create family memories.

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Even the floating hotel QE2 Dubai has special events and activities catering to children.

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Fun is a given on a cruise ship, which may be why Carnival Cruise Line alone hosted nearly 800,000 kids in 2017, more than any other cruise line and the most ever in the company’s history.

Cruises can be better value than hotels

Value is part of the allure. Cruise fares include accommodations, activities and meals. Conveniently located homeports in Florida, Texas, California, New York, Washington and several other states (North America accounts for more than 41% of the global cruise market) mean easy access to ships without having to incur the cost of air travel.

“There are no long road trips involved or dragging luggage from place to place,” advises Nancy Schretter, a well-known expert in family travel and managing editor of Family Travel Network. “On a cruise you can easily visit several destinations in places such as the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera and Alaska, without major transportation and logistical challenges.”

When planning a family cruise vacation, it’s a good idea to involve the kids.

“Find out about things they’ve always wanted to do – or what they’ve seen their friends brag about on social media – and see how you can factor some of these ideas into your trip,” Schretter suggests. “Kids, especially teens and tweens, want to be involved in the planning process.”

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Camp Ocean aboard Carnival Cruise Line.

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Happy kids make happy parents and grandparents. Three of the most popular cruise lines – Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line – have you covered with attractions to keep youngsters entertained – from camp-like activities programs, to opportunities for water play, to movies shown on big screens out on deck, popcorn included.

Complimentary kids’ programs in elaborate, well-equipped play spaces and clubs are key to the family harmony formula at sea. In these colourful areas, experienced youth staff keep youngsters well occupied with age-appropriate, camp-like activities so the grownups can get a little R&R.

All of the seven cruise lines homeporting in Dubai during the 2019/2020 cruise season have extensive kids facilities and activities on-board. MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Costa Cruises are the most popular family-friendly cruise lines sailing roundtrip from Dubai, especially for international cruise passengers and Arabs.

P&O’s Oceana, homeporting in Dubai, also features a solid kids program, but she is more oriented to British cruise passengers, while TUI Cruises and AIDA Cruises are great for multigenerational groups of German cruise passengers. Similarly, Pullmantur’s cruise ship Horizon is cruising roundtrip from Dubai, with a focus on family-friendly fun for Spanish passengers.

Complimentary kids programming

Kids are increasingly being recognised as important cruise customers and much time and effort goes into creating programs that will keep them enthralled.

Princess Cruises is in the midst of a multi-million-dollar kids’ facilities upgrade. Recently debuted on the Grand Princess and Caribbean Princess, Camp Discovery is a redesigned youth and teen centre for ages 3 to 17 – part of the cruise line’s partnership with Discovery Consumer Products.

The new centres were rolled out across the fleet in 2018.

Kids on Princess Cruise’s ships can participate in educational activities inspired by popular TV programming such as Shark Hunter, a Shark Week-themed scavenger hunt, and hands-on science challenges developed by Tory Belleci, star of the show MythBusters.

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Peppa Pig is a popular passenger aboard every Costa Cruises ship.

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On Holland America Line, kids participate in Club HAL activities, with separate hangouts for ages 3 to 12 and 12 to 17. While younger kids might prefer Lego blocks and doing take-home crafts projects, ‘tweens and teens may compete in Xbox 360 tournaments and take hip-hop dance lessons. There are also trivia contests and other tie-ins with the TV program BBC Earth.

While cruising in Alaska’s beautiful Glacier Bay, kids on Holland America Line and Princess Cruises ships may participate in an activity-based program with the National Parks Service and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and certificate.

Carnival Cruise Line’s Camp Ocean, the most popular youth program in the cruise industry, is open to ages 2 to 17 and puts big emphasis on fun.

“We are not school, and we tell our staff that,” says Caroline Lombardi, Program Director, Carnival Cruise Line. “We are vacation, we are fun, we are focused on activities kids’ love, a place kids really want to come back to.”

On Carnival Cruise Line’s 27 ships, kids may participate in ocean- and island-related activities, arts & crafts, sports, music, fun science experiments and more.

“We really go for fun activities that bond kids and create memories, just like summer camp,” Lombardi says.

Family bonding experiences

Outside the organised activities, cruise ships are a place where families can take time to reconnect – whether discovering a towel animal in your stateroom, splashing around the pool or challenging the kids to a game of basketball, mini-golf or Ping-Pong.

On Princess Cruises ships in Alaska, Puppies in Piazza is a popular activity with adults and kids alike (you get to hold Alaskan huskies!), while stargazing with Discovery at Sea encourages family bonding under the stars.

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Or show your cool side by joining the kids zipping down waterslides at WaterWorks or doing the thrilling SkyCourse ropes course.

Shore excursions provide another venue for multigenerational family bonding, whether you book a day at the beach or get adventurous with zip-lining, snorkelling, whale watching, horseback riding, dogsledding or swimming with dolphins.

Schretter suggests researching excursions pre-cruise and letting each family member choose one excursion or activity they really want to do. Select excursions have reduced prices for those under age 12.

Family accommodations

Cruise ship accommodations offer pricing for every budget, whether you book one stateroom with Pullman berths or a suite or connecting staterooms for more space.

Pricing is full-fare for the first two adults and heavily discounted for the third and fourth passenger sharing a cabin.

Large multigenerational groups booking several cabins may also qualify for discounts and perks.

There are also new accommodations specifically designed for families.

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Family Suite aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class.

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On Holland America Line’s latest ship, Koningsdam, family ocean-view staterooms sleep up to five and come with the bonus of two bathrooms.

Recently debuted on Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Vista, and also included this year on Carnival Horizon, Family Harbour staterooms and suites up the ante with such niceties as exclusive access to a family lounge stocked with snacks and games.

Aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class cruise ships, the largest in the world, there are double-story family duplex suites, with slides connecting the two floors.

Dining

On cruise vacations families actually have the time to dine together. Buffets are open for three meals a day as a casual option, while special kids’ menus in the dining room and specialty restaurants make sit-down meals easy and enjoyable, even if you have fussy eaters.

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On Holland America Line ships, demonstrations at the Culinary Arts Center appeal to foodies of all ages.

Parents and grandparents can get nostalgic sharing their favourite Dr. Seuss characters with their youngsters on Carnival Cruise Line ships – including during The Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with The Cat in the Hat and Friends.

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