Wallet-friendly cruise tips can help relieve the pricey burden when planning a family reunion on the high seas
Groups are seeking affordable options when planning a family reunion or multigenerational trip. If you have a tight vacation budget or are short on time, we have some cruise tips for affordable short voyages. An inexpensive two- to six-night cruise may be ideal for most groups. These highly-inclusive trips can be an excellent value compared to similar land-based vacation choices.
Planning A Family Reunion Cruise Tips And Tricks
Cruises offer extensive activities and amenities for all ages and interests, making them good choices for family gettogethers. In addition, the wide range of available accommodations makes short cruises affordable for the most budget-conscious family members. Daily meals, activities, and entertainment are included in the cruise fare. Short sailings depart from a wide array of North American ports in major cities, which can stretch family vacation budgets by eliminating expensive airfares.
Consider these quick-trip cruise lines when planning a family reunion
Many cruise lines offer short sailings, including Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Margaritaville at Sea, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. Short voyages visit enticing destinations, including Bermuda, the Caribbean, Canada, the Bahamas, and Mexico. Cruise lines feature a range of short cruise itineraries, often featuring two or more ports and at least one day at sea.
Cruise lines are responding to the strong appeal of short cruises by offering exciting new options. In 2024, Royal Caribbean’s next Oasis-class ship, Utopia of the Seas, will sail primarily three- and four-night cruises from Port Canaveral, Florida. This is the first time Royal Caribbean has allocated its latest ship to short cruise itineraries. Disney Cruise Line also sails three- and four-night cruises from Port Canaveral on its newest ship, Disney Wish.
Here are 10 cruise tips to help you get the most out of your family’s short voyage and make it a smooth sailing.
1. Use A Travel Advisor And Select The Right Ship
Cruise lines, ships, and itineraries vary, and the booking process can be complex for reunions and family groups. Large families can save money on cruise vacations by using a travel advisor. Top-notch cruise travel agents understand the differences between cruise lines, specific ships and their amenities, as well as the various itineraries available. They can help you select the cruise lines, ships and short cruise itineraries best suited for your family and identify opportunities for group savings.
Onboard amenities, accommodations, kids and teens programs, pool facilities, dining choices, and family activities vary substantially by cruise line and ship. Before planning a family reunion, review these carefully and understand how they fit your family’s needs. Travel advisors can help reunion groups with dining arrangements, and they may be able to offer extra perks and benefits as well. In addition, your cruise travel advisor will be available to help if problems arise during the booking process or on your short cruise vacation.
2. Plan To Arrive A Day Before You Sail
Traveling with kids can be stressful, particularly these days. Traffic jams, flight delays, cancellations, and lost luggage add to the mix. Therefore, arrange to arrive at least one day before sailing so your trip starts smoothly. When planning a family reunion or trip it’s wise to purchase travel insurance as well. Some families also combine short cruises with a resort stay or theme park vacation near their embarkation port. This is a popular option for short sailings departing from Port Canaveral, Florida, and ports in Southern California.
3. Cruise Tips on How to Choose the Ideal Stateroom
Out of the many cruise tips we are sharing, selecting the right staterooms is a big one because it can significantly impact your family’s cruise enjoyment. Not to worry because your travel advisor can help. Review the deck layouts to see what’s located above and underneath any cabins you’re considering.
When planning a family reunion or vacation, avoid booking staterooms above or below noisy areas like nightclubs, theaters, bars with live music, crew work areas, pools, sports venues, kitchens, and dining areas. If you decide to book a “guarantee” stateroom to save money, be aware that you could be assigned a cabin in one of these locations. For those prone to motion sickness, it’s best to book staterooms on a lower floor in the middle section of the ship.
4. Discuss Budgets And Expectations For Your Cruise
Although short cruises are highly inclusive, additional charges for shore excursions, sodas and drinks, specialty dining, arcade games and Internet packages can add up quickly – even on a short cruise. Determine what your budget will allow and review these guidelines with your family. Look into money-saving packages in advance and determine whether they’re a good value for your needs.
When planning a family reunion and setting expectations, keep in mind each family member’s preferences for waking hours, activity schedules, dining options and needs for sleep. While a top vacation goal is making family memories, you’ll likely want to incorporate time together as well as apart. If you’re traveling with a multigenerational group, it’s important to talk with family members about what they’re looking forward to on your short cruise. Discuss any specific expectations before your cruise, such as eating meals together or participating in certain activities or excursions.
5. Notify Your Cruise Line About Dietary Restrictions
Cruise ships generally do an excellent job catering to family members with food allergies and special preferences. Communicate your family’s needs to your cruise line and travel agent in advance. Once onboard, talk to your head waiter to ensure everything is all set. Many shipboard specialty restaurants can also accommodate food allergies with appropriate advance notice.
6. Cruise Tips Include Planning Ahead and Making Advance Reservations
Short cruises sail by quickly, and they can be a fantastic experience if you do your homework early. Make the most of your short cruise by researching your ship and ports of call well before your voyage. Popular shore excursions and specialty restaurant dining times often fill quickly, so make your reservations as soon as possible. Check online resources, including message boards and Facebook groups, for valuable insights.
Planning ahead is among the most crucial cruise tips we can offer. Get your family together and decide what you want to do at each port. Guests can usually purchase shore excursions well before departure, so check your cruise line’s website to see how early bookings can be made. Evaluate the ships’ offerings as well as independent shore excursion opportunities. If participating in specific tours will make or break your short cruise experience, book them immediately. In addition, note any required items for your shore excursions, such as backpacks and closed-toe shoes.
Some cruise lines also allow guests to reserve spa appointments, shows and onboard activities in advance. Check your cruise line’s policies since popular activities can sell out quickly. If you haven’t signed up before embarkation, do so as soon as you’re aboard.
7. Download Your Cruise Line’s App
When you start planning a family reunion cruise, find helpful apps that can assist in the process. Cruise ships offer a wealth of activities and options for spending time onboard. Most cruise lines have a complimentary app that can be downloaded and used on their ships. The apps allow guests to review daily activity schedules, make dinner reservations, read menus, see deck plans, and check onboard account balances. Just connect your cell phone to the ship’s Wi-Fi network, and you can use the free app without incurring additional charges. Some cruise ships also provide a paper version of their daily program.
Download the app before sailing to learn how it operates, and make sure to put your family’s cell phones on airplane mode before sailing away to avoid roaming charges and other fees. If you plan to use your cell phone while at sea, some cellular service providers offer cruise plans and cruise lines offer packages as well. While some families still bring walkie-talkies to stay in touch on board, others use the cruise line app’s fee-based messaging features or WhatsApp to communicate while on the ship. Free Wi-Fi is often available at locations in ports of call.
8. Obtain An Early Boarding Time
Time is always at a premium on short family cruises, so don’t be unpacking massive suitcases as your ship sails away. If possible, bring only carry-on luggage and reserve an early boarding time so you can get on the ship and start having fun. Many cruise lines allow boarding time reservations to be made after online check-in is completed, so pre-register well in advance. If you’re checking luggage, bring a day bag with your family’s swimsuits and other items to take full advantage of the ship while waiting for your luggage.
Once onboard, check out the available dining options. If your family’s desired dining time, table size, or seating location was unavailable prior to embarkation, visit the dining room once aboard to see if changes can be made.
9. Cruise Tips for Youngsters Include Registering For Kids And Teens Programs
If your children will be participating in the ship’s complimentary kids and teens club activities, it’s important to get them excited about the programs as soon as possible. Visit the appropriate age group areas, register your kids for the programs, and talk to the youth staff about the planned activities during your short cruise. It’s wise to encourage kids and teens to go to their program’s first scheduled event. Friendships are often made during the first evening’s activities, and timely participation can make all the difference – especially on a short cruise.
Cruise ships generally offer kids program meet and greet sessions on the first afternoon. Make sure anyone who will be signing your children out of the club comes along to fill out the forms and provide the necessary information. After a certain age, older kids and teens are able to come and go from program activities as they wish.
10. Get Oriented And Explore The Ship Together
The last of our cruise tips is to get a lay of the land. Take some time to look around the ship and see what’s available. Check out specific areas of interest, including the spa, fitness centers, and specialty dining options. Discounts on spa treatments and select specialty dining options are sometimes available on the first day.
Once you’ve spent time exploring, relax and get into the short cruise frame of mind. Your hard work planning a family reunion has culminated into a glorious vacation. Try to stay flexible and remain open to changes that might come your way. As the ship leaves the pier, bring your crew to the sail away party and leave all your worries behind. When it comes to having fun together, budget-friendly short family cruises are definitely in the money.
Discover more cruise tips and travel tricks for planning a family reunion, short cruise or multigenerational getaway when you download your free issue of Destination Reunions today.
By Nancy Schretter, Contributing Editor
Header Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean International