Kitschy and mass market, a cruise might seem like the type of holiday for people too lazy to plan their own family vacations. But that’s exactly what makes them so much fun. Yes, the décor is often tacky. Yes, you may be eating buffet (a lot). Yes, your friends will laugh. But you and your kids will enjoy yourselves more than you can imagine and you will come back super relaxed. And isn’t that what a holiday is all about? Here are 10 reasons why cruises make for some of the best family holidays. 

Excellent reasons to drop the snobbery and embrace the cruise ship.

1.  You don’t have to think. About anything. Once you get on the boat all the meals are planned, the stops are planned and everything runs like a tight, well, ship. No grappling with maps, plotting out itineraries. On some cruises everything is so coordinated they will even make announcements right into your room before each meal service, early wake-up call and land stop so you need never consult a watch.

2.  If you pick the right one, there are loads of activities for the kids on cruises. For instance, Norwegian Cruise Line (based mainly out of the Americas) has their Nickelodeon on Norwegian package where kids can eat breakfast with SpongeBob SquarePants and Splash Mobs slime the kids.

Royal Caribbean (with Transatlantic, European and Caribbean cruises) has the Summer of Shrek where kids can sail with their favourite Dreamworks characters from movies such as Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. You can pre-order all your wipes, creams and nappies for your arrival onboard and the deck has a mini golf course and rock climbing.

The ultimate kids’ experience is Disney Cruise Line with Disney character meet and greets, live shows and Youth Clubs based out of the Americas, Europe, the Caribbean and the Bahamas. Check out the impressive water tube feature around the top deck.

Out of Asia, check out Star Cruises and Costa, both of which have programs like Parents Night Out and games arcades.

For a comprehensive search of the best cruises for kids, go to Cruise Critic

3.  With a child-friendly boat comes lots of children. Which means instant friends for your kids (and less parenting for you).

4.  Just being on a boat is a thrill for children in itself. The bigger the ship, the more to explore and the better they will like it. In general smaller ships have fewer entertainment options, making it that much easier for the kids to be bored. (Unless you are on a specific sailing holiday somewhere with a lot of natural entertainment in the surrounds like the Galapagos Islands.) So if you’re going to cruise, embrace the experience and find the largest floating vessel you can.

5.  Just being on a boat is like a beach holiday for parents. Well, technically there is no beach, but since the children are being entertained for you, all that’s left to do is grab your sunnies and a good book and head out to the deck for some sun worshipping.

6.  It makes commuting between the cities you want to see a pleasure. Instead of dragging your suitcases up the stairs at a train station or trying to catch that next commuter flight, hopping back on the boat is like being at a pleasant resort that magically checks into the next destination.

7.  It’s ideal for travelling in a large group, whether with extended family or friends with kids. Everyone can do whatever they please; there’s no need to negotiate, compromise (or argue) about meals or the itinerary since it’s all planned by the ship. [For more ideas about travelling with older relatives, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]

8.  Some places are actually, by their nature, best experienced on a cruise, such as The Galapagos Islands, parts of the Arctic and Halong Bay. Spending several days sailing these destinations and soaking it all in is far more rewarding and memorable than a mere day trip overland where all you will do is take photos and tick the box.  

9.  It’s liberating to embrace your secret penchant for the cheap and tasteless. There’s no one to judge on a cruise ship if you want to play the slots, drink super sweet cocktail concoctions or smother yourself in suntan oil. (Or let your kids run amuck and stop monitoring their refined sugar intake.) That’s just cruising 101.

10. Everyone gets to relax properly. No one needs to be the designated driver or the organiser and timekeeper for the itinerary and activities. After a long and fulfilling day of sightseeing or just enjoying the ship, parents can indulge in a tipple (or five). Then traipse back to your cabin and sleep the night away while you cruise to the next port of call and the next family holiday adventure.

The Practicalities

Cruise ships are not baby-proof, so they are not a good idea for children who are crawling or toddling. (In fact, some cruises, such as Royal Caribbean International, have a minimum age requirement for kids that excludes newborns and even determines what sort of sleeping arrangements the ship will allow for kids under 18.) Even if your children are older, it’s important to discuss ship safety with them and pre-determine a meeting spot onboard in the case of an emergency.

Check the website for your chosen cruise carefully as there can be other age-related restrictions for children that you may not have thought about. (For instance, Disney Cruise Line has a very strict policy that does not allow children into the pool unless they are toilet trained and absolutely prohibits swim nappies in all pools.) 

Opt for a larger vessel as it reduces the likelihood of motion sickness. Investigate the route of the cruise (is it in open water or an enclosed bay) and talk to your doctor before you depart about anti-nausea medications if you’re worried. If your child is highly susceptible to motion sickness and you don’t want them taking medications, then a holiday of vomiting and crankiness is probably not for you.

For more travel tips on the Barbie Premium Experience run by Royal Caribbean, see the suitcases&strollers story here

If you prefer a more independent kind of boating activity, see the suitcases&strollers story Sailing

Images: Royal Caribbean International