1. Do your research
Not all cruise ships are created equally. Some are specifically tailored for families – with their facilities, their shore excursions and their onboard shows. That’s the sort of ship you want.
Check out their kids clubs (even if your children are shy and say they don’t want to join in, I’ve found most eventually gravitate there and end up making great friends). Are the activities varied, are they age specific, can you read any reviews of them?
Now check out what else is there onboard for children to do? Are there sports facilities, what are the pools like, is there a movie screen?
2. Make the start of your holiday as stress-free as possible.
We recently sailed from Southampton, which is a good 2 hour drive for where we live. Doing that drive just before you board can make everyone grumpy and irritable and heaven forbid if you get stuck in traffic. You end up dreading the start of your holiday.
However, we drove down the night before and stayed at the Southampton Holiday Inn, taking advantage of their ‘Stay and Cruise’ package; you travel to Southampton the day before, enjoy a night’s stay, parking for the duration of your cruise and transfer to and from the terminal (which is about a 5 minute journey) – and believe you me, it’s an absolute godsend at the end of your trip when the queue for taxis snakes around the terminal exit and you get to stroll to your own private taxi.
The package starts at £175 bed and breakfast and the hotel is spot on for families.
Our stay was gifted to us for the purpose of a review, but I’d highly recommend adding it on to your trip if you can afford it as it really did make the start of our cruise so much easier. An added bonus is that it’s situated right on the port so you can watch ships come and go; another great way to get kids excited about their trip.
3. Switch off
Wifi onboard ships can be very expensive so tell yourselves this is the time to step away from all things online and have a blast.
It’s going to be a lot harder for teenagers to buy into that, but if you’ve picked the right ship with plenty for them to do, they will have forgotten about Facebook and FaceTime and be having some good old-fashioned fun instead!
Take advantage on the free onboard entertainment and get them to see things they wouldn’t ordinarily experience, like West End shows or ice skating extravaganzas.
4. Give the kids cool jobs
One of my children’s very favourite things to do once onboard is to ‘map’ the ship. Find out where everything is, suss out the best pools to visit, decide which restaurant we should try.
With older kids you can send them off to do it on their own; if your children are younger you can go on the adventure with them.
They love exploring the lifts, finding out where different decks lead to and discovering the shortcuts to their favourite places. Better still, give them a camera and tell them to photograph their favourite bits for you all to look at later.
If they really get into it, you can give them some A4 paper and get them to actually draw a map of the bits they’ve discovered on the ship.
On our recent cruise with P&O, I had the layout sussed by day 4. My 11-year-old had it sussed by day 1! Not only is it fun for them, it’s really useful for you!
5. Have family time
If you’ve picked the right cruise ship there will be so much for your kids to do, you’ll hardly see them. But try to leave some time for doing fun stuff together. Watch a movie all cuddled up on sun beds together. Pick a shore excursion you will all love. Have a ping pong tournament.
I think a cruise is such an amazing experience, especially for families. So much to see and do, the chance to be independent in total safety and the opportunity to explore different countries without the hassle of constant travel in-between venues.