Planning a first family cruise can often be both nerve wracking and thrilling. From booking to disembarking, there are many aspects to keep in mind, since any of them could make or break the whole vacation. On a brighter note, a wide array of activities, amenities and food can potentially satisfy anyone, no matter whether it is a newborn baby or a seasoned grandpa. Those who want to stay on top of these aspects quickly find out that cruises are the ultimate family vacations. Here is how to take the stress and frustration out of the process and navigate the minefield of decisions.
Across the seven seas
Some basic rules of travelling always apply, although many specifics are different. For instance, packing techniques help just like with any other vacation, but when cruising, it is also highly advisable to pack a tote bag with all the essentials you need ‒ namely because it takes a few hours for your luggage to be delivered to the cabins. Also, getting off a ship is not like checking out of a hotel. There is again a process of waiting involved. Speaking of which, cruise lengths vary from a couple of days to two weeks.
Decide how many days makes sense for you and your family, depending on your preferences and free time. Another thing to take into account is the selection of the arrival and departure ports. The basic dilemma comes down to either visiting just one destination or hitting many with one fair. Some of the most popular bucket list destinations are the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, South Africa, Northern Europe, North America, etc. In any event, pick a destination the whole family is on board with.
The bottom line
Next, it is time to look around for the best deal out there. Choosing the right cruise line is the cornerstone of a successful cruise. The lines differ in terms of quality of service, size of the ship, and offered amenities. It is not uncommon to stumble upon shabby offers that are complete duds. You want to steer away from shore excursions that are basically glorified bus rides. Also, keep your eyes open for discounts, special offers, and deal alerts from reputable agencies.
Do your homework and utilize websites like Onboard.com that allow you to research and book cruises as well as read reviews on them. For families, it is important to note that some cruise lines stand out from the rest because of what they offer to young kids. Carnival cruises, for example, have a great line-up of kid programs, activities, and features that’ll keep the little ones entertained and engaged.
Once the cruise is booked, you need to figure out the itinerary. As for the time on board, there should be a variety of possible activities, including pool, cinema, skydiving, roller skating, bumper cars, golf, etc. Ports offer excursions such as snorkeling, kayaking, city tours, shopping, and horseback riding. Some cruises are marketed and tailored to be all-inclusive. Even then, however, you cannot expect not to have extra expenditures on board, such as pay-extra eateries, gift shops, beverages, various activities, etc.
From stem to stern
Some people overlook the fact that the location and the type of the room on the ship do play an important role. Staterooms are a budget option for those who do not plan on spending much time inside. If you are willing to pay a bit more, though, you can opt for balcony rooms, suites, and deluxe packages. Cabins on the low decks are a nice solution for people who are prone to seasickness.
The good news is that with the marvels of modern technology, you should be able to find high-quality pictures of the rooms or even go on virtual tours and watch live video feeds. Just remember to book the room well ahead of time and reserve the tickets before boarding. The most popular tours sell rather quickly and you do not want to miss the opportunity.
Finally, landlovers should not fret once on deck. Cruising is something that quickly grows on you, even if it feels scary at first. Rely on the crew to help you and provide you with all the necessary information. Make sure to let the kids rest after all the fun and games. Do not forget that you can (and should) stay in touch with your kids in case you want to do some activities separately. True, the cell phones won’t work, but Walkie Talkies will do the trick just fine.
When planned and done right, a cruise is the perfect vacation for the whole family. To make the magic happen, you have to know where and when you want to go and what you want to get from the vacation. All ships are not created equally and your choices matter a great deal. So, first-time cruisers, brace yourself. Do not skip the research if you want to have the time of your life and explore new horizons with winds in your sails.
As mentioned last month, I am falling behind big time with getting this post done at the beginning of each month. That said, we were travelling in America so I’ll use that excuse this month. Either way, here is August’s post. And wow, what a month it was. We had a quiet start to the month but ended on a huge high in Yellowstone National Park. I’ve managed a few rather nice captures in front of the camera with BattleKid.
We didn’t do much at in the first half of the month. We took this picture of BattleKid and I for a post Cathryn of Cardiff Mummy Says. She was writing about parents twinning and this was me and BattleKid, rockin our blue tees and awesome Toms shoes.
BattleKid and I also had a fun evening on the couch and I managed this picture of the two of us. He was happy, I was happy (despite the crazy hair) and it even got featured in a roundup of #showyouwerethere by Madeline of This Glorious Life.
August here in Portugal has been hot, hot, hot but we did manage one evening at the beach, which was long overdue. BattleKid loved every minute as he always does and we enjoyed some time together at the shore paddling together. That was before he started jumping waves with BattleDad.
Before we hit America we had 36 hours in London and we decided to have a family day out while we were there. We visited the London Eye, saw the fish of SeaLife and even went dragon hunting at the Tower of London. This picture was taken on Embankment Bridge as we made our way from Southbank to the Tower of London.
After our fun-filled day in London we flew to America to start a wonderful two-week road trip and it started in wonderful Yellowstone National Park. From geysers to bison to waterfalls, we saw so much and enjoyed every minute of our four days in this stunning place. What a way to end August!
If you didn’t catch July’s Be in the Picture post, why not check it out. Our USA trip didn’t end there and some of the pictures in September’s post will come from the rest of our trip. So pop back next month to see those!
Initiated by Kerry of Kerry Louise Norris and Alana of Baby Holiday, Be in the Picture encourages us to get in front of the camera instead of always being behind it. I’m guilty of this and by joining in with Be in the Picture, it ensures BattleKid will have pictures of me as well of himself when he grows up.
I was recently contacted by the lovely people behind the BubbleBum Booster Seat to see if I’d like to review one. BattleKid is unfortunately not at the stage of being ready for a booster seat. I will also freely admit I was a bit confused as to whether children could still use backless booster seats given the new laws that came into effect at the beginning of the year regarding child car seats.
To help with this confusion, BubbleBum themselves have written a blog post to help customers who might be unsure about the new rules, especially where booster or cushion seats are concerned. Their blog post, along with guidelines from the British Government helped me get clarification about the new rules. If you are unsure about the new rules and whether your child can use one, I urge you to read both links.
It turns out that children can still use backless booster seats and for parents who travel or ferry children between cars, a BubbleBum Booster Seat might just be what you are looking for.
The BubbleBum Travel Car Booster Seat is a portable, foldable, inflatable/deflatable, lightweight car booster seat for children aged between 4 and 11 years of age. It easily deflates and packs away, making it ideal for those who travel regularly, for holidays, for taxi journeys, school trips and even the grandparents cars. Winner of more than 20 designs, innovations and safety awards, including Mumsnet, Mother & Baby and Practical Parenting, its narrow design makes it perfect to fit 3 car seats across the rear seat of family cars.
It comes with its own stretchy bag to store in, when not in use, and because it is lightweight, it can easily be carried in a handbag or rucksack so it is close to hand if needed. Available in a range of colours, it also has an added shoulder belt positioning clip to make it extra comfortable.
Made from durable material that is both strong and safe, the BubbleBum has been designed for use by children between the ages of 4 and 11. It has been approved under the United Nations ECE Regulation R44/04 for safety for both Groups 2 and 3. It is designed for use with a standard 3 point adult seat belt that has been approved to ECE Regulation 15 or equivalent. The only countries that are not covered by this legislation are Canada and Australia.
The BubbleBum Booster Seat sells on Amazon, Halfords and Boots for £29.99 but for the next few weeks it will cost £21.99 or €24.99 in all Lidl stores in Ireland and Northern Ireland while stocks last. So, if you could do with a BubbleBum Booster Seat, I urge you to get down to your nearest Lidl to grab one while you can.
However, the lovely people at BubbleBum have offered one of my readers the chance to win one of their Travel Car Booster Seats in black. Just follow the instructions on the widget below and best of luck!
Terms and conditions:
- Open to my UK and Republic of Ireland readers only.
- Closes at midnight Thursday 5th October 2017.
- One winner will be picked at random and notified within 5 days.
- There is no cash alternative.
- One winner will receive a black BubbleBum Booster Seat direct from the company.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth
I had been thinking we haven’t been up to much since we got back from our USA holiday but then I remembered we did something great at the weekend. We went to the World Superbike Race in Portimao at the weekend. The track is only a little over an hour away from us here in Portugal and the weekend paddock and stand tickets were cheap as chips.
BattleDad and I have been to the Isle of Man TT twice before but this was our first WSB meet. It was also someone’s first big motorbike race meet. We brought him to Aberdare Races last year but WSB is on a whole other level. He wasn’t sure of the noise at first but soon got into it. And he even got a picture with the Yamaha pit girls, although he doesn’t look overly fussed does he!
We are thrilled that we have a race track so close to us here in Portugal. Just another advantage to add to the list. All we need now is for a MotoGP race to be sceduled for Portimao and we’ll be as happy as Larry. That said, Jerez is only two hours away!
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