Follow these 12 tips for making your family cruise vacation at sea a fun-filled, stress-free frolic that will please everyone
There are many reasons why cruises are a popular choice for multigenerational vacations and family reunions. Cruise vacations offer families plenty of opportunities for bonding and making great vacation memories together. Family cruises are an excellent vacation value, and today’s ships are loaded with activities and amenities for all ages and interests. Flexible daily itineraries also provide plenty of opportunities for fun, both together and apart.
If you’re planning a multigenerational family cruise, here are 12 tips for making your vacation a smooth and successful experience.
Brainstorm and Plan Your Family Cruise Together
Travel experts have found that the most successful multigenerational family vacations involve everyone in planning for their trip. Working together as a group surfaces important information and helps cement the buy-in process. Through these conversations, family members will learn more about each other’s vacation goals and will be able to plan family cruise activities everyone can enjoy.
Start Vacation Planning Early
One of the most difficult aspects of organizing a family cruise vacation is finding a time when everyone can get together. Planning your multigenerational vacation far in advance will offer the best chance of coming up with a mutually convenient date, as well as provide lower group rates and the best stateroom options on ships. Connecting cabins, suites and specially designed family rooms are excellent choices for family cruise vacations. Some groups may wish to reserve staterooms as close together as possible to make family bonding easier.
Talk About Budgets
Successful multigenerational vacations are designed with every family member’s needs in mind. Ships offer a wide range of accommodation price points, which is a key advantage of choosing a cruise for your group’s vacation. Have an open discussion about budgets with your multigenerational family crew to find out what’s affordable and then select ships and itineraries that meet your needs.
Some members of the family may wish to stay in luxurious suites or villa accommodations on your cruise, while others might choose connecting staterooms or studios perfect for solo travelers. In addition to accommodations, you’ll want to discuss who will be picking up the tab for extra expenses such as specialty dining, group shore excursions and other additional cruise charges.
Work With a Family Cruise Travel Advisor
A good cruise travel advisor can be a valuable asset in planning a memorable family cruise. Travel advisors can also save families considerable time and money as well. Top cruise travel advisors are cruise experts, so they can provide professional insights and advice on choosing the best itinerary, ship, staterooms and dining options for your trip. They often have access to money-saving deals and can help you determine which cruise options offer the best fit for your family.
In addition, trusted travel advisors can immediately alert you if your cruise itinerary changes or is cancelled for any reason. They can also provide assistance and serve as your advocate if any unexpected issues arise on your trip.
Discuss Vacation Expectations
Grandparents, parents and grandchildren should take the time to talk about what they’re looking forward to on their family cruise vacation. If family members have specific expectations such as eating meals or doing activities together, make sure to discuss these before the cruise. This is particularly true if one or two members of the group, such the grandparents, are paying for the vacation.
Set goals for your vacation experience and have each member of your group mention at least one thing they’d like to do on your voyage. Share the list with everyone and try to make sure each person gets their wish. Flexibility also is key when planning a family cruise vacation. Family members often have individual needs and preferences for daily schedules, dining and activities. Respect your differences, plan accordingly and be willing to bend the rules a little when necessary.
Select the Right Itinerary
Picking the best itinerary for your multigenerational family cruise will depend on a variety of factors including cruise length, budget, vacation goals and the type of experience your group is seeking. If your family is primarily interested in a beach-oriented vacation, you’ll likely want to choose a different type of cruise itinerary than one emphasizing culture, history or activities in colder climates.
It’s also important to review potential itineraries for other factors such as number of sea days and the length of time in ports of call. If you’re planning to drive to your cruise, select an itinerary with a convenient embarkation port for your family members.
Choose Your Ship Wisely
Successful multigenerational vacations offer activities for everyone. Pick a ship that works well for every age group, from the youngest children to the oldest family members. Your cruise travel agent can help. Look for ships that offer excellent kids, teens and family-oriented programs as well as activities for the littlest ones in your group.
Also consider the needs of older adults who might be more sedentary or have mobility issues. Ask about the availability of handicapped rooms and the walking distance from available staterooms to the main dining rooms. Also find out if there are any adult-focused venues onboard where parents and grandparents can relax and have fun.
Focus On Dining Arrangements
Meals are included in cruise fares and tend to be an important part of multigenerational vacations. Many cruise ships offer multiple dining options for guests, including fixed early and late seating times in the main dining rooms. Early dining is often preferable for children and grandparents. Early seating reservations tend to fill up quickly, however, which is another reason to start cruise planning far in advance.
Flexible “As You Wish” evening dining times are also available on many ships, but these can be a bit riskier for large family groups with younger children. If specialty dining reservations are desired for celebrations or special family events, it’s important to make those reservations in advance. Travel advisors can help.
Incorporate Time Together as Well as Solo Moments
The best multigenerational vacations include an optimal balance of downtime, “me” time and “we” time. While the goal of your multigenerational family cruise is to create shared memories, it’s important to remember that children need time to burn off energy and enjoy the company of kids their own age. Teens enjoy hanging out with other teens and doing activities together.
Likewise, parents and grandparents need their own quiet periods for rest and adult company as well. Cruises offer onboard entertainment, activities and venues for all ages and interests, making them an excellent choice for multigenerational vacations. Family-oriented cruise ships offer kids’ clubs and supervised activities for children and teens, allowing parents and grandparents to enjoy time on their own.
Review Shore Excursion Options In Advance
Family members may wish to go out on shore excursions separately, meeting back on the ship to talk about the day’s adventures over dinner. Others families like to do everything as a group. If you choose to do some shore excursions together, choose options that will cater to the needs of every family member.
If your group is looking forward to specific shore excursions, make sure to book those in advance to avoid disappointment. In addition, see if it’s possible to make advance reservations for any shipboard experiences and attractions your multigenerational family wants to enjoy together as well.
Purchase Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is more important than ever in today’s environment, providing valuable peace of mind as situations change. Trip insurance can reimburse family vacationers for covered losses such as unexpected illnesses, trip cancellations, medical expenses resulting from accidents and injuries, and much more. Purchasing travel insurance within 15 days of your first cruise vacation payment can provide additional coverage for pre-existing medical conditions and other benefits.
When evaluating travel insurance plans, it’s important to understand what each policy covers and what’s excluded. If you’re considering certain types of coverage such as “Cancel for Any Reason” insurance, timing of purchase is key as well. A good travel advisor or travel insurance provider can help you select the plan that is right for you.
Capture Family Vacation Memories
Great family photos are the best vacation souvenirs. Have multiple family members take photos and experiment with both posed and candid group pictures. Cruise ships offer numerous opportunities for individual and group pictures as well.
In addition, you may want to plan ahead and hire a local professional photographer in one or more ports of call. Companies such as Flytographer and Localgrapher have independent local photographers in locations around the world. These photographers know the best local places to take family vacation photos and are skilled in photographing candid special moments and posed group shots.
By Nancy Schretter, Contributing Editor
Header Photo Credit: Holland America Line