When it comes to selecting the best cruise destinations for your family, there is a sea of possibilities, most of which depend on your destination, budget, and personal preferences. You can have fun with your spouse and children on a cruise without breaking your bank-and that is what we are going to talk about here. There is no shortage of good cruise destinations at affordable rates, but there are a few specific things you should heed to make sure the whole family has a blast during the nautical expedition.
A Few Basics before We Move On to the Top Cruise Destinations
Contact your health insurance provider beforehand and make sure your whole family-especially your little ones-will have the proper medical coverage overseas (or at sea, for that matter).
Family Interaction and Communication
Think about the game plan with respect to fun time. Would the kids participate in children's events separately from you, or have you opted for family events and excursions? If your offspring will participate in separate events, think about communication-especially cell phones-and the way the whole family will stay in touch. Talk to your cell phone provider and discuss options for coverage at sea or overseas. If your current provider does not have the proper service, talk to another provider or the cruise ship's operator for more information about communication costs.
The choice of cabin is important on a cruise, especially with kids. Cabins are located in areas as diverse as lower deck, upper deck, mid-ship, bow, and aft. With respect to cabin type, you get things like inside cabin, outside cabin, suite, wellness compartment, and cabin with veranda and balcony. Your goal is to talk to the cruise operator in advance, so that you can discuss everything from space to pricing and window view-and then figure out what fits within your budget.
Get more information
Visit portals such as Sea Scanner and Cruise Brothers before planning your cruise. That way, you have ample time to explore options that are available to your family as a whole as well as to get further information about pricing and cabin-and, why not, everything about children-oriented events on a specific cruise ship.
Top Cruise Destinations for You and Your Kids
Suitable for kids: Ages 12 and up
Weather: Depends on where the cruise ship is headed, and can range from warm around France, Spain, and Italy to cold and breezy around the United Kingdom, all the way up to Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
Selling points: You can introduce your kids to history, art, and cultural diversity. Take family-oriented cruise lines like Disney and Carnival to canvass various countries in Europe, especially if you like organized excursions. Otherwise, opt for a Scandinavian or Mediterranean cruise, and you will still have plenty of fun. For example, in Copenhagen or Barcelona, ships typically dock within a short distance from the city's downtown, making it an ideal time to do everything from shopping to visiting local museums and enjoying the local beer-oh no, there are kids with us, so let's just say "enjoy the local ice cream flavor."
Communication risk: As long as your cell phone provider operates in Europe, you are fine. Otherwise, look for special deals on international communication. You can also check out overseas calling plans that U.S.-based operators like AT&T provide.
Cost: This cruise itinerary can be pricey, especially if you want to hop from one country to another and, therefore, have to factor airfare into the overall vacation budget. To reduce costs while still having fun, choose a country or two and spend as much time within a geographical span that wouldn't require air travel to move from one point to another. For example, you can decide to spend three or four days in Marseille, France, and then move to Barcelona, Spain when the ship docks there.
2. Caribbean, Bahamas, and Mexico
Suitable for kids: Ages 3 and up
Weather: Warm, tropical. Watch for the occasional hurricanes that wreak havoc in the region, and don't forget that hurricane season lasts from June to November.
Selling points: The Caribbean Islands, Mexico, and the Bahamas have been the top three destinations for Americans over several years-and that's not about to end. Depending on where you are leaving from, you could get cheap airfare. For example, if your family lives on the East Coast, heading for the Bahamas can be a fun and affordable option, given the shorter distance. The same holds true for Mexico if you live on the West Coast. Activities that your whole family can enjoy in the Caribbean Islands are as diverse as the number of islands or the color of seawater you find in the region. These activities include hiking through rain forests, exploring prehistoric Mayan ruins-a good history lesson for the kids-beach games and shipboard activities aimed at minors. Talk to the cruise line operator to get more information about specific activities that are available for children the same age as yours as well as fun time that your whole family can spend.
Communication risk: With an international plan, you should be able to communicate normally with your loved ones. Some parts of the Caribbean have poor cell phone service, so double-check with the cruise line operator before heading inland. If some members of the family want to participate in an onshore excursion, talk to the expedition sponsor or coordinator for ways to stay in touch.
Cost: Average to pricey, depending on the location and activities in which the whole family will engage. If you plan on doing some local touring, I recommend you enlist the help of a tour guide. That way, you would not be paying the "special price" also known as the "American price," which is the artificially inflated tab that some local merchants might want to charge you.
3. Canada and New England
Suitable for kids: Ages 6 and up
Weather: Ideal and warm during the summer; spring also offers nice, breezy temperatures in the high single digits to the low teens.
Selling points: New England and Canada offer a nice combo of cruising and history for you and your little ones, giving you a large assortment of attractions that will suit all your needs. You can choose to spend time on exclusive beach resorts-think Bar Harbor and Martha's Vineyard-or barnstorm chic cities as diverse as Québec City, Boston, and Montréal. Plus, if you live in the Northeast, you can spend even less money on your overall cruise while still retaining the fun part. Cruise lines that operate trips to Canada and New England include Norwegian, Carnival, Princess, and Holland America.
Communication risk: None. You normally should have regular cell phone coverage in the U.S. and Canada, so no need to enroll in any international calling plan. However, check with your cell phone provider before heading to Canada; some providers have varying conditions.
Cost: Affordable to average. Given that you will be cruising within the United States and will not incur foreign ATM and exchange fees, your overall cruise budget should be between low and average. Unless, of course, you just couldn't resist making the kids happy and engaging in way too many fun activities every now and then, here and there.4. Alaska
Suitable for kids: Ages 10 and up
Weather: Cold; so think about proper, warm clothing-especially for the kids-when considering an Alaska-bound cruise expedition.
Selling points: The Last Frontier has many attractions that will suit you and your family if you are into everything from loving nature to flying in a chopper over a volcano, driving a dogsled, and/or hiking a glacier. Your family also will relish the pristine landscapes of Alaska if your loved ones are into touring seal-inhabited bays and trekking through a Bald Eagle preserve. In one sentence: this is not the kind of easy and quiet excursion some folks would want. So you and your family should brace yourselves for some action and, of course, fun.
Communication risk: Normally, there is no communication risk, but you might experience occasional network failures in some parts of Alaska, especially in remote areas or around tidal shorelines. You should not have that problem in "big" cities like Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage, though.
Cost: Average to pricey, especially with the avalanche of new taxes and fees that eventually will increase the price per cabin and outing events. So, plan ahead and consider the number of children who are coming with you as well as the type of activity they might be interested in.5. Hawaii
Suitable for kids: Ages 6 and up
Weather: Gorgeous, pleasant year-round weather, which gives you much leeway on the time you want to cruise.
Selling points: Hawaii offers a diversity of culture, landscape, and climate that will add sun and fun to your vacation, making your entire family run from one pristine island to the next. The kids will have the opportunity to learn a great deal about the islands; their social and cultural wealth; and the good, fun-loving and multicultural people of Hawaii. I suggest you plan the cruise during a peak time, such as Spring Break or summer holidays, so that your kids can meet other kids on the ship. Plus, you can visit multiple islands, rent cars and book hotels as fast as possible. Depending on your cruise line's event schedule, you may not spend much time at one place, but your family should be OK as long as you derive fun and touristic elation wherever you stop-even if it were for a few minutes or hours. For more information about Hawaii-bound cruises, contact your travel agent or Norwegian Cruise Line, which seems to be (at least for now) the only cruise line to offer Hawaii-bound expeditions.
Communication risk: None.
Cost: Ranging from average to pricey, especially in the peak season, such as Spring Break or in the summertime.
The best cruise destinations for families with kids provide a nice combination of outdoor activities, fun, quality time, and affordability. Besides Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, New England, Alaska, and Hawaii, other locales provide an interesting mix of fun and learning-but they are more expensive, farther, and harder to pull off, especially for a family with kids.