Many, many years ago, I swore that I would never take a cruise ship holiday. I imagined being packed inside a humongous floating hotel with thousands of strangers eating and drinking to excess, and I cringed. Fast forward 10 years later, and we have done three!
Do I love to cruise? No, I do not. I have a complicated love/hate relationship with cruises. I think there are a lot of great reasons to take a cruise, but also to avoid them like the plague. It really depends on your motivation behind taking a cruise, the ages and interests of your children (if you have any), and the temperament of you and your spouse. One thing for sure, you need to manage your expectations. You need to understand exactly what you are getting into and what you hope to experience.
In this blog, I focus on why cruising is amazing! However, in my other blog Cruise Holidays: Six Reasons To Avoid Them, I emphasize the opposite – what I don’t like about cruise ships. Hopefully, between the two blogs, you can determine whether a cruise is the right choice for you and your family.
Why Cruising is Amazing!
There are several reasons why taking a cruise is a great way to travel.
Taking a cruise allows you to visit many different ports and cities, in a short amount of time.
Our first cruise was through the Mediterranean in Europe in the summer of 2012. Over 12 days, we visited Venice, Athens, Istanbul, Ephesus (Turkey), Mykonos (Greece), Rome, Florence, Toulon (France) and Barcelona. At each port, we disembarked very early in the morning and had until 5:00 or 6:00 pm each day to explore the destination. We booked tours in most cities to get the most of our time. By the time we arrived back at the boat, we felt that we got a sense of the city that we visited and saw what was most important to us.
A cruise enables you to explore an unfamiliar region or city.
In the summer of 2013, we took a nine day Baltic cruise for our second cruise. We started in Copenhagen, then went to Berlin (the port was Weimar, Germany), Tallin (Estonia), Stockholm (Sweden), St. Petersburg (Russia), and Helsinki (Finland). Unlike the first cruise, I had never been to any of these cities before. I was curious about each of the destinations, but wasn’t sure whether I would want to go and spend several days in any one spot. This cruise allowed me to spend a day in each place (two days in the case of St. Petersburg) and come away with a new appreciation about a region about which I knew very little.
Taking a cruise ship allows you to unpack and get comfortable.
A cruise ship allows you to visit many amazing and diverse places without having to pack and unpack multiple times. You essentially book into your cabin like you would a hotel room and settle in for your cruise.
Whenever I travel with my children, I try to avoid “living out of a suitcase”. I don’t enjoy that, and I think that this type of travel is difficult on children of all ages. Children can certainly cope, but I believe that a holiday that has your family moving from hotel to hotel every night or two becomes tiresome and unenjoyable. We have taken many trips where I have wanted to visit lots of different places over a week or two. However, I have had to leave out at least one destination as it would require hopping from one hotel to the next in order to make that itinerary happen.
This issue does not come up on a cruise. Once you have decided on the cruise and the itinerary that it offers, you and your family can unpack and get comfortable.
Many details of your holiday are taken care of by a cruise ship, leaving you to simply enjoy yourself.
It is someone else’s responsibility to get you from city to city on a preassigned schedule. Except for making sure that you arrive back on the ship on time after a day of exploring, you have little to worry about. There are usually many restaurant options available to you onboard, as well as buffets with foods from around the world that satisfy most palates. In addition, there is always some sort of delicious food available at any hour of the day or night to satisfy different needs.
There are multiple amenities on most cruises. Each cruise ship offers different kinds of amenities, but generally there are usually lots of pools and hot tubs on a cruise, in addition to lawn chairs for suntanning and reading a book. There is often shuffle board and ping pong, and a sports court for basketball or volleyball.
More elaborate cruises may offer children and teens’ programs; babysitting for babies and toddlers; and waterslides, climbing walls, and putting greens. There is usually live entertainment available all day long in many different bars, lounges and outdoor patios all over the boat, for many musical tastes. Most cruise ships offer a night life filled with Broadway type or comedy shows, and discotheques with dancing late into the night.
You can budget very effectively when taking a cruise.
The cruise price usually includes most aspects of your cruise; such as your cabin, food, nonalcoholic drinks at meal times, and the use of most of amenities on board. There are always additional items that cost more. This often includes alcoholic beverages, gambling at the casino, going to certain restaurants on board, or booking shore excursions offered by the cruise ship. However, you can chose whether you wish to purchase those items. You certainly do not need to in order to fully enjoy a cruise and all it has to offer.
A cruise ship offers lots of independence for children and alone time for parents.
My four children LOVE cruises. Once they get familiar with the layout of the boat and how to find our cabin, they spend much of their time on board enjoying the pool and hot tubs, and running from activity to activity. They meet children their age from all over the world and make very close friends very quickly.
My children were 7, 9, 11 and 15 years old when we took our first cruise in 2012. In January 2017, we took our third cruise with our three children (our fourth had to go back to university). They were 12, 13, and 15 years old at the time.
When my two youngest were 7 and 9 years old, I had to sign them in and out of the children programs. Otherwise, I kept loose track of them on board. Even at that time, they had independence not available at home to explore the boat, or to go get their own snacks.
Now, my youngest is 12 years old, and on our last cruise, my husband and I hardly saw any of our kids! We had to book time with them to ensure that we actually connected with them throughout the day. However, overall, they had their experiences on board and we had ours! This allows for parents to reconnect with each other which is a welcome and unusual opportunity during a family vacation.
A cruise ship allows for multi-generational travel and travel with friends.
We just returned from a cruise of the Caribbean with my parents who were 81 and 77 years old. We took the cruise with another family of 5 whose children were 12, 10 and 1 1/2 years old. Her parents joined them and they were 71 and 66 years old. Even though there was 80 years between the oldest and the youngest in our extended group, everyone enjoyed themselves for many different reasons. A lot of those reasons had to do with what was offered on the cruise ship.
On many cruise ships, there is something for every age. At one end of a boat you might find a water park for young children, and then at the opposite end of the boat, you might find an adult only pool tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the main pool area. There is usually a library room and a separate card or games room for quieter moments. At the same time that the cruise is organizing a basketball scrimmage on the outdoor sports court, the boat might also be offering bingo in a lounge area, or a bridge game in the card room.
There are lots of elevators for those that can’t walk well, and lots of stairs for those that have energy for two. Most cruise ships easily accommodate large parties for dinner. As mentioned before, they usually offer diverse menu choices. Most picky or delicate appetites are normally satisfied.
However, some cruise ships, like Royal Caribbean and Princess, are more family friendly than others and their programming and amenities will reflect that; while others, like Holland America and Celebrity, focus more on adults and merely tolerate children. Whether there are multiple generations travelling together on a cruise or simply your family, it is important to find out whether the cruise and the cruise ship that you want will meet everyone’s wants and needs. There is lots to choose from so be particular!
There are lots of reasons to consider taking a cruise with your family. Do they out-weight the reasons why I often avoid them? The answer is sometimes. It really depends on what other vacations we have taken in the past year and what my family needs at that moment. Like everything, it is a very personal decision and it is only relevant at the time that you are considering taking one. One year later, circumstances might have significantly changed for your family and a different decision about taking a cruise might be the result.
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