By Sadaf Afshan
Of all the vacations that I have taken with my kids one of the most memorable ones has been the cruise trip that we took a couple of years ago. It was a great way to enjoy multiple destinations without checking in and out of hotels and wrestling with luggage along the way. Since we were cruising with our extended family, there were fifteen of us ranging in age from 3 years to 65 years, including 5 kids.
There was something for everyone – fine dining, casual buffets, pools with water slides, kids’ activities and exotic shore excursions. In fact all of us loved it so much that we are planning another cruise trip this summer.
Like last time we know that in order to enjoy our trip to the fullest we need to do some meticulous planning to make sure that the trip goes on smoothly especially since we will have 6 kids in the group this time too.
Here are some tips that I would like to share with those who are planning to go undertake a cruise trip with their kids.
Research, Research, Research
Research your cruise options thoroughly before booking your vacation. Weigh the pros and cons of each cruise line including childcare options, family activities, meal options, stateroom size and layout, and, of course, price. When choosing an itinerary, consider the number of at sea days, the ports of call, and shore excursions.
One of the most fun aspects of cruising are the culinary delights. Most of the meals are included in your fare so you can indulge to your heart’s content. The only challenge might be finding the right halal options. Unfortunately, hardly any cruise lines offer halal meat so one might have to stick to vegetarian and seafood options. As always, do inquire about alcohol and other ingredients in the dishes.
Some cruise lines offer Indian vegetarian and other special meals if you mention it while booking. However, one needs to know that these are usually frozen meals which are simply reheated and served.
It might be better to opt for the buffet rather than the formal dining room. That way you have a wider choice of halal options. Also, it’s more convenient with little kids since they can run around if they wish. However, do not miss the experience of elegant formal dining once in a while.
Packing for the trip
If you have travelled with kids before you know the drill – sunglasses, sunscreen, swimsuits, essential medicines, diapers, wipes etc. Some of these items like diapers and wipes might be available for sale on board but are usually quite overpriced. Don’t forget medication for sea sickness or motion sickness if you are prone to them.
If you are travelling to hotter climates do keep in mind that even though it might be hot and humid on shore it might be cool on board the cruise, especially during evening. So do remember to pack some light hoodies too.
Do remember to carry a well-packed carry on since it might be hours before your luggage reaches the stateroom. Also, carry a lightweight backpack for shore excursions.
Once on board, have a conversation with your kids (if they’re old enough) about the importance of following rules on board. Explain that cruise ships are safe but they need to pay attention during the safety drill so the family will be prepared on the very off chance that something goes wrong.
Remind kids that they must not wander out on their own and stay away from railings.
Usually I’m a stickler with routines but I would advise to just relax and let yourself go with the flow during a cruise trip. It’s worth it to let the children hang out on the deck with you even though it might be past their bedtimes, unless there is a shore excursion early next morning. In fact, it was one of our favorite pastimes to enjoy the cool breeze on the empty deck late evening when most cruisers were down in the casino or nightclub.
Shore adventures can be quite expensive. You might consider not booking them beforehand and deciding according to your mood when you land there.
Most cruise lines offer a wide variety of kids’ activities like art and craft sessions, story sessions on board, usually free or cost or very low cost. Do remember to check them out and take full advantage.