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.
Olivia is psychologist, traveller and entrepreneur from Brisbane. Mother of two beautiful children and proud owner of two silly boxer dogs, Teo and Mia. She is passionate about writing and always inspiring her readers to be clever in their lives. Her motto is “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Olivia is a regular contributor to High Style Life.
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.
As some of you know we’ve recently returned from a two-week road trip in North West America. I haven’t had time to go through all my photos but here are two I took on my phone in Yellowstone National Park.
The first is Gibbon Falls at about 8.30am. The light was just incredible and I am hoping the pictures I got on my DSLR do it some justice. The second picture is of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River and was simply stunning. Worth the hike back up the hill from the viewing point.
To see what everyone else is linking up this weekend to My Sunday Photo, please click on the badge below. Why not join in yourself!
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth
As some of you will know, we are just back from our two week USA road trip, and what a trip it turned out to be. I’ll be writing about it in much more detail shortly on the blog but suffice to say it was amazing. From stunningly beautiful Yellowstone, to smoky Idaho and Montana, to hip and trendy Portland, it was a brilliant two weeks.
BattleKid really surprised us by taking the 3000 miles and 60+ hours in the car in his stride with not a tablet or electronic in sight. I think he was just taking everything in, much like Mum and Dad. When we finally hit Portland, we did many things just for him after being on the road for 12 days. Like visit Oregon Zoo. Aside from this post, I am putting together my review of Oregon Zoo. It was such a great zoo, a contender for the best we have ever visited.
Here are a few pictures from that day. Their Great North West Section was amazing, carved into the forest and wood that make up Washington Park in Portland.
BattleKid’s favourite animal of the day were the playful seals which swam by him at the glass of the aquarium. You could just tell they were playing, swimming directly at him and turning at the last section, one way or the other.
We finished off in the gift shop, as you do, and were very tempted by the explorer’s hat. In the end we didn’t buy it, simply as we were running out of suitcase space. Maybe next time.
I hope you’ve had a good end to the summer and the kids are settled back in school. Did you go on any nice holidays, at home or abroad? I’d love to hear all about them.
Linking up with Donna of What The Redhead Said. If you’d like to take part or see some other Living Arrows posts, please click the badge below.
Does going on holidays with your children fill you with excitement or dread? Excitement for the possibilities that lie ahead, or dread of it turning out to be the worst holiday with kids. Yes, sometimes disaster can strike, and there is nothing you can do about it, but often it’s not something we can foresee. For instance, our worst holiday with BattleKid to date is a tossup between our first holiday to Lanzarote with him, and our second.
Lanzarote had been a favourite destination of ours for years. So, when booking a holiday with a one-year old, we thought why not return to the Canary Island of choice. We chose a resort and town we hadn’t been to and it looked great. When we arrived, we knew we had chosen right. A lovely one-bedroom apartment awaited us. Unlike our first holiday abroad with an 8-month old, we could put BattleKid to bed and relax in the living room with Netflix. The resort was very family friendly, and the town was a lovely 20-minute walk from our resort. It really couldn’t have been better. Until disaster struck on Day 5 of our 7-day holiday. Chicken pox was confirmed the next morning and we were grounded for an extra 3 days. Not what I wanted.
We decided that it was just unlucky of us, so didn’t let it stop us booking a return trip to the same resort the next year. However, the very first day we arrived, disaster struck again. This time, we had only just arrived at our apartment, and were leaving to go for a walk, when BattleKid fell. It resulted in a trip to the hospital for four stitches in his knee. It meant no pool time whatsoever for the entire holiday. We’ve now decided we are jinxed with that resort and may not return to it again, despite it being a brilliant resort.
In my previous post fellow bloggers and I shared with you our best holidays with our kids to date. This time I’ve asked them to share their worst holiday with kids to date. Let’s see where and why!
Bloggers Worst Holiday with Kids
Samantha from North East Family Fun says she generally enjoys Haven holidays, but wasn’t a fan of Golden Sands. Their caravan was dirty and had to be re-cleaned on arrival, the entertainment wasn’t great and it rained the whole time!
Jenna from Then There Were Three says her worst holiday with kids would have to be their trip to Barbados. The hotel was a shambles, and despite saying they were child friendly, the kids club was never open. They were also only informed of a child’s menu on their last night!
Sarah from Mumzilla says their worst holiday was to a holiday apartment in Spain with a then 18-month-old. It poured down all week with rainy. On the only sunny day, their son managed to tip his buggy and smashed his teeth in. They are now growing through stained as a result.
Oh, and the car seat provided for was for a baby, so it was fun cramming him in that one!
Karina from Mum’s the Nerd says their worst holiday was camping in North Wales as it rained heavily the entire time.
Cass from Frugal Family says their recent holiday to Milan has been their worst holiday with kids yet. Even though they had a great time overall it was too much hard work keeping everyone happy.
We booked a family room which meant no-one had space to go for some time on their own, so we were together 24/7 which was not ideal! I ended up refereeing arguments about everything from one child accusing the other of using up all the WiFi, to whose turn it was to go in the shower.
Collette from Truly Madly Cuckoo told us their worst holiday was when their son got airlifted to Bangor Hospital following an allergic reaction to a peanut he only touched at a BBQ.
It was so scary, I dread to think what would have happened if he had actually eaten the peanut rather than just touched it.
He has now been prescribed an Epipen which they carry everywhere.
Frances who blogs at Whinge Whinge Wine says their worst holiday with kids was last year in Majorca. Everyone got food poisoning and said it’s
No fun being puked on by two small children when you’re puking yourself.
It then struck her husband on the flight home, which ended up being delayed hours because they wouldn’t let him travel. You can read all about it in her blog post, aptly entitled Holidays from Hell. What an awful holiday, I think you’ll agree.
Lynne from A Day in the Life of a Mum of 6’s worst holiday with kids is my worst nightmare. On a trip to France, her car engine blew up and it had to be transported back to the UK. Her husband had to fly to London and buy a new car to get them home.
We laugh about it now but it was uber stressful at the time.
Hannah from Travelling with Leo says their worst would have to be their weekend camping at the Curious Arts Festival….
In torrential rain!
Lisa from Bare Mother told us their worst holiday was a return trip to a 5-star resort in Thailand.
The first time we were pregnant, and the whole trip was bliss – adults only pool, bar/room service to our balcony overlooking the water, afternoon naps, massages and dinner out every night. We tried to recreate with a 6-month-old, and failed miserably. Stuck in our room every night, in the dark, from around 6pm. Rookies!
I know that feeling!
Deborah from Country Heart and Home says their worst holiday was Scotland, where it did nothing but rain torrentially, all week. And when they did venture to the clubhouse, their then 3-year-old jumped into the deep end of the pool and couldn’t swim! The kids did nothing but argue and we were all stir crazy!
The whole week was a nightmare!
Emma from Wanderlust and Wet Wipes had a disastrous weekend in Muscat, Oman during which they all whinged and moaned for various reasons. You can read all about their weekend in the blog post she has written. Not quite the weekend away they had hoped for!
Jennifer from My Mummy’s Pennies is sad to say their worst holiday with kids was Disneyland Paris earlier this year. Their children enjoyed it, and she is glad they got to experience it but
It was such a stressful week that mainly consisted of queuing and we spent 5x what we usually spend on a holiday to do it.
We booked a cheapie to Greece. It was 40 degrees, the room had no air-conditioning and there was a motorbike rental business outside our bedroom window.
The bikes revved all night, and if they closed the window to stop some of the noise, they cooked in their room. They even had to shower all through the night just to keep cool. She says it was completely awful and she’d never do it again.
Cathryn from Cardiff Mummy Says told us their worst holiday was a week in her in-laws caravan in Borth. Although they’ve had some brilliant holidays there, for the week in question, it took them 5 hours instead of 2.5 hours to get there due to lots of road works and accidents. I know the road to Borth and can only imagine.
It rained the entire time, the kids fought constantly and the weather meant the TV signal stopped working. We came home early!
Nyomi from Nomi Palony said they saved up for their first all-inclusive holiday at the Costa Del Sol but it turned out that they had booked in the worst weather the region had seen in over a decade! It was torrential rain for the entire week.
To make it worse, Britain was having a heatwave so my feed was full of sunbathing happy brits while we were miserable.
On the way to the airport the baby vomited all over the car that would be left in the long stay airport parking in a heatwave. Once there we went into the city just to buy warmer clothes and waterproofs and somehow lost a 50 euro note getting out of the taxi. The all-inclusive food they saved for was terrible. Then poor Nyomi got a bad case of mastitis that meant she needed to go to a very busy A&E in Marbella. So bad was it, they were so happy to come home!
Zoe from The Tale of Mummyhood says her worst holiday so far was their first as a family of four. Her eldest daughter fractured her leg three days in and a week before her second birthday. She had a bright pink cast covered in hearts. Zoe is still not over the trauma, even though her daughter is brand new!
Alice from Living with a Jude has had both her best and worst holiday rolled into one, and her response has been featured in the previous post as well. She went to see family and friends in the states following several years of trying to get her horrid, emotionally abusive ex out of her life. While her friends out there made the visit amazing, and she had such sun seeing them all, her (then) seven year-old severely autistic son was (in her words) a bit of a nightmare.
He had meltdowns every day, wouldn’t stay on the beach, wouldn’t go out, freaked out on the plane. It was horrific!
It was the worst holiday because of her son’s behaviour but the best because emotionally she was on top of the world (her own words).
But the worst I’ve read is from Luis, who blogs at Single Daddy Daycare, when he was doing his very first holiday as a single co-parent. You need to read his post! I really felt for him after finishing it. From passport woes to projectile vomiting, his first holiday as a single co-parent certainly did not get off to a good start at all.
As you can see, the reasons for certain holidays being the worst holiday with kids are varied and unfortunately weather plays a big part in it. Searing heat is not much fun with kids (Emma and Nikki), nor is torrential rain which featured a lot.
Before BattleKid came along, BattleDad and I spent a week on the Isle of Man during the TT races. We had glorious sunshine some days. However, on our second last day the heavens opened and dampened our spirits. So much so we found a room for our last night so we wouldn’t have to sleep another night in a soggy tent. I’m not sure I could do it with BattleKid in tow.
What has been your worst holiday with kids to date? Did it involve rain? We’d love to know, so why not share it in the comments below!
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