As our children grow up, we delight in taking them for big and little trips - whether it's a weekend at the shore, a week at the mountains, or big family trip to a theme park. When children get to middle and high school, planning family vacation becomes much more difficult - extra curricular activities, sports, dating, after school jobs and teenage angst all create hurdles to enjoying family time longer than dinner together on Sunday evening.
Your family is on the search for a warm and wonderful vacation spot. You've visited the Caribbean before and loved it. Mexico...been there and done that. You're craving a new adventure but don't want to spend hours on a plane or drain your bank account.
Many parents dream of taking their kids to Europe. Of course, when you’re talking about a family vacation, budget is always a top consideration and concern.
Parents googling this question are trying to plan and budget. You’re looking for a “ball park” to see if a trip to Europe is affordable for your family.
Travel Agent: What makes you say that? Have you ever been on a cruise before?
Client: NO, I just know I won't like it.
Travel Agent: (Sigh)....You do realize you're giving me the same argument your kids give you every time you beg them to try a new food?...Something you know is tasty and really good for them.
Will you at least consider the benefits of a cruise for your next vacation?
Many people have HUGE misconceptions about cruise vacations. They "KNOW" they won't like a cruise without ever having stepped foot on a ship. They have fully convinced themselves based on their imagination, propaganda or perhaps an experience somebody had 20 years ago.
If you're the type of person who hates everything other than that which you already know, please don't bother reading the rest of this post. This information is not for you. Go and hate your vegetables someplace else.
If you're at least a curious sort of person, then I invite you to read on.
A cruise is not just about a ship, it's about a vacation experience that offer so many unique choices and options. If you haven't at least considered a vacation on board a cruise ship then you are literally "missing the boat".
Each and every passenger on board a cruise has the personal freedom to create and enjoy a truly customized vacation experience. As the author of "Fearless Family Vacations - Make Everyone Happy Without Losing Your Mind". Offering a vacation option to my clients that truly has something to make every member of the family smile makes me a huge proponent of family cruise vacations.
Cruise vacations are one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. Ship builders cannot keep up with the high demand for bigger, better, more bad ass cruise ships. This is all very surprising when you consider less than 15% of Americans have taken a cruise vacation.
Most people don't fully understand how travel agents Work. It's my responsibility to offer my clients different options, great values so they can enjoy the very best vacation experiences available. I'm not into twisting any arms here. At the end of the day, the final decision is entirely up to you.
Here is the top cruise "myth list" that we travel agents hear time and again. If your mind is open, you'll understand why we travel agents chuckle sometimes. You'll also learn about the many vacation benefits that cruise vacations offer, especially for families. It might just turn you a believer and a first time cruiser....
"A Cruise would be WAY too Expensive" - Family cruise prices start around $50 per person/per day. This price includes your cabin, gourmet meals, ship board activities, Broadway style shows, free child care, taxes and port fees. It makes planning and budgeting for your family vacation MUCH easier. 70% of Americans live within a one day car ride to a cruise port. This allows families to visit exciting ports of call while saving the expense of airplane tickets. A family cruise vacation often works out to be cheaper than taking a family road trip. Cruise lines post their schedules and rates about 1.5 years in advance and we can set up affordable payment plans.
"We're Beach People, Not Cruisers" - Guess what...Cruisers get to spend time at the beach. As a matter of fact, you can visit 3-4 world class beaches all in the same week! Most cruise lines even own their own private Caribbean islands with amazing white sand beaches and crystals waters. We're talking beach nirvana here people and the only way you'll ever get to experience their warm waters and white sand if by cruise ship. Oh and if you want a room with a great ocean view, the BEST ocean views happen while at sea! Don't forget to wave to the friendly dolphins as they spin past your balcony.
"We Don't Want to Stuck on a Boat with Crowds of People" - Most guests on a cruise ship are at the pool, at the spa, skydiving, skating, surfing, shopping, zip lining, swimming, at the casino, eating gourmet meals, watching movies, practicing their putts, water sliding, playing basketball, rock climbing, taking a class, relaxing, dancing, having a drink, getting in shape, enjoying a show, at the kids club, at the movies, listening to live music, having fun with friends...Oh, and some days people actually get off the ship to do a million other things in port. Guests on board a cruise ship are never all in the same place at the same time. This is why you'll never feel crowded. If this sounds like being "stuck" to you then maybe you should consider a "staycation" instead?
"Cruises are for Old People" - Uh-NO! Well... ok, you probably will see some white hairs skydiving and rock climbing but cruises are not for the nursing home mindset. As you can see from all the activities just mentioned here, family cruise ships don't cater to old people. Yes, there are some luxury ships and sailings for adults only. The activities there are geared for older baby boomers. Family friendly cruise ships offer children's programs for babies right on up. They do an especially terrific job offering a wide range of activities for tweens and teens (often the most "discerning" of all guests). Actually cruise vacation on board a family friendly ship is ideal for a multi-generational vacation because there are so many choices of activities.
Speaking of teenagers, age does matter here. Most resort rates are charged according to the ages of their guests. Generally hotels define "children" as being under the age of 12. Once they turn 13, they are charged full adult rate. Instead, cruise ships charge by the number of guests sharing each cabin - age doesn't matter. The 1st and 2nd passengers sharing a cabin are charged a higher rate (aka "adult" rate) and 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th passengers (depending on cabin size) are charged at a much lower rate(aka "kids prices"). This offers families with tweens, teens and even those 20 something full nesters some really significant savings.
"I Don't Want To Be Trapped at sea with a Bunch of Kids" - Rest assured every family friendly cruise ship, including Disney, offers adult-only activities, shows and areas that are completely off limits to children. Truth be told the kids probably don't want to be trapped at sea with a bunch of adults either. They want to make new friends and have a fun vacation of their own. Family ships offer marvelous kids clubs, separated into age groups that offer supervised activities all day long. Cruise vacation offer families balance. There are plenty of activities that will bring families together. There are also plenty of activities to keep the kids busy so parents can relax and enjoy a "real" vacation of their own.
Speaking of cruise kids clubs, most will provide supervised child care while ships are docked in port. This means parents can enjoy a museum visit in peace, play a round of golf or go scuba diving with the knowledge that their kids are entertained and safe. Resort kids clubs require parents be present on resort grounds whenever their children are at the kids club.
"We Want REALLY Experience a Destination" - A cruise ship will allow you to "SEA" more. It "travels" while you're comfortably asleep. Each day you wake up in a brand new destination ready to have fun or explore. For example, A cruise to Hawaii allows you to easily visit 5 islands in 7 days. To repeat this itinerary on land, you would lose a vacation day between each stop - getting to the airport, waiting for the flight, hopping to another island, getting a ride/car, checking into your next hotel (hopefully your room is ready), packing/unpacking, find someplace to eat. You would be traveling through Hawaii and not experiencing it. On a cruise ship you would wake up to a delicious breakfast, spend your day visiting volcanos and beautiful beaches, return to a gourmet meal and enjoy a show. If your preferred destination is near water, chances are it's easier to get there by a cruise.
"Cruise Ship Cabins are Claustrophic" - Cruise ship cabins range from budget-friendly inside cabins without windows to palatial, two story suites with glass walls, grand pianos, butlers and wrap around balconies that will sleep a small army...and everything in between. All of these choices can be found on the same ship. Actually many of the newer ships feature "virtual" windows now so you have still have a window without having to pay for one.
Some parents crave a little privacy for "romance" while on a family vacation (if you get my drift here). Cruise ships allow guests to select EXACT cabin where they want to sleep. This way parents can get two side by side cabins/rooms with a door inside to connect the rooms. At a hotel, guests can "request" adjoining rooms but it's more likely parents will end up sharing a room with their kids down the hall from one another instead spending time with each other.
"My ___Gets REALLY Seasick" - Just about every family has one member who suffering from motion sickness. Sailing on a cruise ship is different than being on a personal watercraft, ferry boat or amusement ride. The new generation of cruise ships come fully equipped with computerized stabilization systems that make for incredibly smooth sailing. Please consider the source here... I say this as someone who is very sensitive to motion sickness. Recent sailings have left me nausea free, even during stormy days at sea! As mentioned above, you can choose a cabin mid-ship that offers the lease amount of motion. Choice of destinations can also minimize this concern. Rest assured there are plenty of remedy options to help alleviate any discomfort and have you ready for fun. In addition, medical staff is always on board. If your still worried, consider a River Cruise which will keep you far away from open waters.
"We Hate Dressing Up" - Great, cause you don't have to. Years ago cruise ships required formal attire and even captain's dinners complete with tuxedos and beaded ball gowns. Yes, these experiences are still available should you choose, but the key word here is "choice". If you don't want to dress up, it's not required. Grab a slice of pizza in your bathing suit. Bite into burger on the pool deck in your shorts. Enjoy a casual dinner in a theme restaurant or peruse the buffet...I would highly suggest that you DO dress in at least a robe when your room service order arrives!
"Hurricanes!!!" - Hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from June to October. Bear in mind the "Caribbean" covers a HUGE geographical area. A storm in one area does not affect every port of call. That would be like saying you shouldn't travel to Texas because New York is getting hit with a major snow storm! If you have any travel concerns regarding hurricanes, cruise ships are a much safer bet! Cruise ships can move. All ships closely monitor the weather. A captain can change course with the flick of a switch. Resorts are stuck in one place. If there is a storm on the horizon, hotel guests must either to evacuation or hunker down and hope for the best.
"I'll Get Fat" - Cruise ships are known for their food, delicious food. Just about every ship offers restaurants or menus created by celebrity Iron or Rock-star chefs. Many of these menus now offer healthy, organic choices in addition to cupcake shops and the chocolate midnight buffet. There are fully outfitted gyms, sessions with personal trainers and you can always opt to take the stairs instead of the elevator. The choices are all up to you.
"Cruise Ships Are Not Safe" - Parents naturally worry about safety when it comes to their children. Cruise ships often sensationalize in the press. If there is a an outbreak of norovirus on a cruise ship it's all over the 6 o'clock news but you NEVER hear about anything like that happens at your kid's school or at "the happiest place on earth". Do you honestly believe bad stuff never happens at Disney? Think about it people - Disney owns ABC news. Just saying!
Cruise ships must constantly undergo Coast Guard inspections. They follow strict international rules, known as Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Everyone must participate in a "muster drill" for safety. This includes instructions on locating and putting on life jackets and finding your assigned lifeboat. The odds are much higher that something bad will happen driving your kids to school than while on a ship at sea.
"I've seen the movie Titanic"... - Me too, great movie! If you're worried about icebergs I might suggest a Southern Caribbean sailing instead of Antarctica or the north Atlantic. You might want to pass on any destinations like Alaska or Northern Europe with their Glaciers. Last time I checked Aruba doesn't have any icebergs, or hurricanes for that matter.
I still dunno....? - It's true, seeing is believing. Most major cruise lines will offer "cruises to nowhere" as certain times during the year. These are short over night or two day cruises where the ship sails out into the ocean, turns around and heads back home. The ship doesn't stop an any ports but it is a wonderful opportunity to experience a cruise ship without a huge investment of time or money. Most family friendly cruise lines offer year round, 3 or 4 day sailings to the Bahamas. This too is a great way to test the waters for a long weekend or to get a "real vacation" after spending a few days in a Florida theme park.
If you're still a bit leery when it comes to trying new things, sometimes having some moral support helps. Invite friends and family along to help build your confidence. Cruise vacations are IDEAL for creating group camaraderie. As mentioned earlier, it's a great way to bring the entire family together with multi-generational vacation. PLUS...if you invite a enough people along and you can benefit from the power of group buying power and can quickly earn yourself a free cruise!
Hopefully your mind has a least been opened to a new world of cruise possibilities. If you have a dream destination in mind and it's located near a body of water then a cruise vacation may just be the perfect vacation for you. Be sure to speak to a travel agent who can help you navigate the waters.
If you're planning to take a family cruise with a teenager you're in for a fun time. OK, there may be just a hint of sarcasm behind that opening line.
Family vacations with teenagers can be a real fun adventure...and for once, I'm not being sarcastic. It doesn't have to be the deep sighing, eye rolling, back sassing nightmare. With a bit of cooperation and planning, everyone can have the time of their lives. Whether you're traveling with a new 13 year old or planning that last family vacation together before your child heads off to college, here are a few tips to keep in mind with traveling with teens...