Thursday, 8 March 2018

How To Make The Most Of A Family Cruise Holiday

Cruises are without a doubt our holiday of choice.

In my opinion, no other kind of holiday even comes to close to offering the kind of rest, relaxation, entertainment and value that a cruise can offer but for some reason - many people still seem to be of the opinion that cruising is only for the elderly.

Jon & I first fell in love with cruise holidays before the boys came along when we enjoyed a 10 night sailing on the Independence Of The Seas visiting the canary isles. We were completely sold on cruising from then on!

From the fact that your holiday starts the moment you step on board in Southampton, to the level of luxury you experience on board to the fact that you wake up at a new destination most mornings ready to explore - there's so much to love. But when our children came along, we were worried...would cruising work so well as a family holiday?

We took our first cruise with the boys in 2016 when we spent a week on board P & O's Aurora sailing the Norwegian Fjords, and our second last Summer when we did the Med aboard our favourite ship, the Independence Of The Seas once again.

We got tons of questions from people who watched our cruise on Instagram Stories - people who were intrigued by what kind of entertainment was available on board for children, what the food and facilities were like, and most of to get an affordable price for a family cruise.

So today I'm sharing my top tips on How To Make The Most Of Your Family Cruise Holiday!

1. Get The Best Deal!

Of course the most important aspect of any cruise is to find the best price for your trip, and that in itself can feel a little overwhelming at first.

There are lots of different cruise lines to choose from and the prices can vary greatly...for example, a Disney cruise would naturally seem like the best fit for a family cruise but when sailing from the UK the prices can be prohibitively expensive - particularly when you're a larger family like us.

Instead take some time to compare your options - UK cruises with companies like MSC tend to offer the lowest prices, or you can also look into the possibility of flying abroad to join a cruise as prices for this can be lower still. You can get some great cruise and stay deals which enable you to experience the best of both worlds on your holiday - the luxury and excitement of a cruise with the chance to explore one area in more depth on a stay over before or after too.

Keep an eye out for seasonal offers too - cruise companies often offer incentives such as free drinks plans at certain times of year, which are well worth bagging if you can!

2. Be Hack-Savvy

The one slight downside to a cruise holiday (if you can even call it a downside, more a minor consideration) is that cabins on cruise ships are a little on the small side if you're used to large hotel rooms or cabin holidays.

We usually stay in an inside or outside sea view cabin as we're personally not keen on the idea of a balcony with the boys (they're perfectly safe of course, it's just our personal concerns) and we find that the cabins offer just enough space for a travel cot and a tiny bit of floor space. The bathrooms are also very small, with just a shower.

So you don't have tons of space at your disposal, you don't have a bath and you don't have tons of play space on the cabin floor - all things that could potentially be a problem when travelling with children!

But there are hacks...simple things you can do to maximise the space and make things easier on yourself.

For example - the cabin walls are usually magnetic, so why not take some magnets that you can use to hang things on? This way you can make maximum use of your cabin space. I find taking jewellrey organisers ideal as it means I can hang it all up instead of have it cluttering up my dressing table.

It's also handy for hanging up the daily cruise planner leaflets and your seapass cards so you don't need to go hunting for them everyday!

Things like over-the-door shoe storage systems, and hanging shower organisers are great space savers too!

And if your child isn't keen on showers, pack a little baby paddling pool that you can fill and use in the shower in lieu of a bath - that way you can save the tantrums over the shower!

You can also ask for unwanted furniture to be removed - on our last cruise we had a coffee table taking up the floor space, so we had it removed leaving the boys with much more room to sit and play with their toys!

3.Organise Your Time

A lot of people have the opinion that there won't be much going on when you take a cruise holiday - in reality, the fact is that there is often SO much going on that it becomes difficult to keep track of it all and plan your time.

I always pack a highlighter, and each night before bed I go through the next days cruise planner (A daily newsletter left in your cabin each night full of information about whats happening the next day) and mark off all of the activities that we'd be interested in.

Then I plan our schedule for the day around those things - so we eat our meals at times that will enable us all to do the activities we want to do.

Of course organising your time isn't essential, you can just go with the flow too - but I find I get more out of the holiday if I do just a little time planning.

4. Make Use Of The Kids Clubs

The use of kids clubs on holidays can be a bone of contention for some reason but personally, I think they are great!

On our last cruise, we weren't sure if we'd use them at all but we took the boys along to try them out and see what they thought and to my surprise they LOVED it! The staff in the clubs are fantastic, they do so much fun stuff with the children, every day is different and exciting, they even have parties and movie nights - my eldest son couldn't get enough of kids club!

He would get upset whenever we had excursions planned because he just wanted to be at kids club having fun with his friends!

The Kids Club also mean that you can have some time to enjoy some of the non-child friendly areas of the ship such as the adults only relaxation areas or the adult only bars on board - so make the most of them while the children have fun!

5. Get Familiar With The Ship Rules

Before you travel, its always worth taking some time to get familiar with the rules and regulations on your particular cruise line as they all differ.

Pay particular to the age limits for things like the pools and activities, as we found a lot of the ones on board Royal Caribbean ships (such as the water slides, climbing wall, ice skating, etc) were for ages 6 and over - this was a bit of a disappointment and I wish I'd known this before we travelled as I wouldn't have mentioned them to my 4 year old.

Some cruise lines also have rules around children in nappies using the pools or the kids clubs on board, so this is something you'll need to check out before booking too.

There are also curfews in place for children on board most ships, too.

You can read about our family cruises experiences below:

Our Mediterranean Cruise Highlights

Cruising With Kids On The Independence Of The Seas

Our Norwegian Fjords Cruise

Have you considered cruising with children? Is it something you've done in the past? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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