Do you like the notion of taking your children on a cruise but are put off by the thought that:
(a) the ship will be too confining for youngsters and
(b) the respites on the shore days will be too tedious or tiring for them?
There’s fact and there’s fantasy in most scenarios involving kids and cruising. The reality, based on a 12-day cruise with our two children on the Mediterranean from Rome, was exceedingly positive.
Why a cruise?
It’s easy. What do most parents want out of their holiday? A breather, and a cruise is one of the easiest forms of travel. You fly to the departure port – or just a cab if leaving from Melbourne – get to the ship and unpack just once for the whole trip.
The children love it. Most big ships are decked out for children and can include waterslides, wave pools, rock climbing, even ice rinks. And kids’ clubs. It took 24 hours for our eight-year-old Jack to be more interested in the club than hanging with us.
Our daughter Amelie, 14, made friends with children from all over the world and is trying to work out how they can all go on a cruise again. It’s a safe environment with a mix of independence and activities for children.
There’s lots to do for parents, too. Think fitness centre and blues bar and show stage. Best of all, you can always find a quiet corner to be alone.
You can find a cruise for your budget then make money-wise choices on board. We went for a lower deck, enough space for all of us but not too expensive. You can opt in or out of drinks packages and mostly the food is included.
Shore visits mean a bit of concentration. What are we going to do? Should we book an official excursion with the ship (and pay way above the odds) or chance our luck on local transport? Hire a taxi or jump on a bus and see what happens?
Going your own way can have excellent results. We found the stunning Blue Lagoon in Malta, and Sicily’s Taormina oozed culture, history and views.
The old city in Dubrovnik, Croatia, a short taxi ride from the dock, gave us an awesome day of exploring the city walls and jumping into cool, clear water.
But the more our cruise went on, the shorter the shore visits became. By the end we had to tie a rope around the kids to get them off the boat.
And don’t let traveller’s guilt force you to do everything on every shore visit. Choose a big day off the boat for what you really want to see.
All up, this holiday gave us a good balance of family travel time and kids making friends, visiting new places and having some independence.
In 12 days we visited six countries and some fantastic towns and cities, and wonderful as they were, it was the ship that gave us the best memory: sailing out of the narrow channel at Kotor, Montenegro with the sun setting in the background. Spectacular.