How To Plan Memorable Family Cruises

There are a few things you can do to make sure your next family cruise (with young kids) is a smooth sailing one.

Before booking your cruise, research the many different kinds of cruises that are offered. You might be surprised to find many family-friendly ones. Even cruises that aren’t with Disney can offer plenty of fun for the entire family.

6 Tips For Planning an Enjoyable Family Cruise Vacation

1. Request the earlier dinner seating.

If your children generally head to bed at 8:00, avoid the late dinner seating which might be right at their bedtime.

On a cruise we enjoyed once, we had the late seating. I felt like I had to eat a snack at supper time because 8:00 seemed so late. Then, if I ever considered indulging in the midnight all-you-can-eat pizza, I was still stuffed from finishing supper after 9:00. I just never got to even try it!

An earlier seating is definitely more family-friendly.

2. Plan some activities for the entire family to do together.

There are all kinds of FREE activities to do on a cruise. After unloading your cargo, your first activity should be exploring the ship together to see what there is to offer.

Plan to swim, play shuffleboard, ping pong, watch a movie, or whatever else is available. Be sure to enjoy the free stuff before even thinking about booking your costly guided tour.

3. Arrange for some alone time.

Just because it’s a whole family affair, don’t neglect the time you could be spending with your spouse – or alone.

If your children are young, check out the children’s programs that are available on board. There are generally all kinds of activities for children on the ship. Plan to enjoy some time alone while the kids have their own fun!

4. Consider taking a shorter cruise.

Especially if you’re a first time cruiser, opt for a 3 or 4 night instead of a 7 night (or longer) cruise. There is definitely a lot to keep one entertained for a week, but consider the needs of the whole family when you book. I tend to get seasick, so if you’re like me, take a shorter cruise for starters. Then you can find out if everyone is up for the sailing adventure.

Taking a shorter cruise gives you more time and money to do other things on either end of your vacation. Maybe you can take a couple of nights to explore the place close to your port of call. You may need a couple of days to plant your feet on firm ground before getting back into your routine.

5. Take advantage of time off the ship at different ports.

If the cruise you are taking has stops along the way to your final destination, get off the ship and have a look around. You have plenty of time to enjoy the luxuries of the ship, but you may only have a few hours to take in a new culture.

In the town we live (Alotau, Papua New Guinea), we have cruise ships that stop occasionally. They’re usually only here for a few hours, but I think it’s a great adventure for those who choose to debark and take in a new culture. What a great experience, even if it is only for an afternoon! Besides, it offers me great entertainment to watch all the tourists walking around in their fancy clothes on the streets of this beautiful third world country.

6. Invite another family to come along.

Carefully consider if you should take another family along with you. Cruising with friends can be a great adventure.

Some advantages of taking other people with you: share babysitting responsibilities if you’re not comfortable with the child care offered on the boat; you may be less likely to dine with strangers if you have a larger group; there may be discounts on certain activities for larger groups.

Disadvantages include: not focusing your time on your own family; more opinions in the decision-making process.

Bon Voyage!

Do you have any tips for cruising with the family?


  1. Jeri says

    @ Carter’s Travel Guide- You’re right! Thanks for reminding me of the importance of planning for the kids. Traveling with children adds a new dimension of adventure!

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