Cruise Deals for Federal Employees
retirees and contractors
Cruise Deals for Federal Employees
retirees and contractors
Cruises are one of the best vacation options for families, but many people who have not cruised before are hesitant to cruise with their kids because there are just too many unknowns. Here, find answers to some of the questions we most often receive from parents.
The short answer is - yes. However, not all cruise lines are the same. Some cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines, focus their ships on family-friendly entertainment and their ships offer a myriad of options for kids of all ages. From water parks to laser tag, ropes courses, surfing lessons, climbing walls, bungee jumps and zip lining, there will be plenty of activities to keep kids entertained. Other cruise lines like Princess, Celebrity and Holland America, do not have any grand kid-focused features, however, that is not always a minus. Many times, lots of kids onboard also means crowds at the pool and long lines, especially during busy times like Spring Break and Christmas. Your kids can still swim in the pool, hang out in the Kids Club and have a great time while you have a more relaxing vacation.
While most parents choose family vacations as a way to connect with their kids and spend time with them, many are also looking for some adult time and relaxation. That’s when the onboard Kids Club comes in. All of the major cruise lines have one and, while they differ in size and features, their main goal is to make sure your kids have the best time onboard.
Typical Kids Clubs separate kids by age group, usually 3-5 year olds, 6-8 year olds and 9-12 year olds. This is done in order to ensure that the activities are tailored to each age group and that kids can meet others of a similar age.
Most Kids Clubs are open from 9am to 10pm with short breaks for lunch and dinner. After 10pm, most of them offer late-night “slumber-parties” until midnight or even 1am for a nominal hourly charge (usually $6-$8 per hour). Based on their age, kids staying in the Club after 10pm can either sleep, watch a movie, play video games or do other fun activities.
Some cruise lines even allow parents to leave their kids in the Club while they go on a shore excursion when the ship is in port, giving more options to those with younger kids to explore tours that may not be suitable for them.
While most Kids Clubs require kids to be at least 3 years old and potty-trained in order to participate in the activities, there are options for those with younger kids as well.
Carnival Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines accept kids as young as 2, and Carnival will even change diapers for those kids that are not potty-trained.
Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Cunard offer in-cabin babysitting, which is a great option for parents who want to have fun at night. A staff member will come in your cabin and either play with your child or just stay there while the child is sleeping for a small hourly charge. In addition, Royal Caribbean offers onboard nurseries, where babies as young as 6 months can be left for a few hours. However, spaces are very limited and fill up quickly.
Most cruise lines have a dedicated Teen Club area, which offers a more-flexible place for teens to meet other teens and hang out. Teens can go in and out whenever they want and there is usually plenty to do - things like Discos, Spa Days, Game Tournaments and other parties for teens happen throughout the day.
There are three main types of cabins on most cruise ships - Inside (no window), Oceanview (porthole or small window) and Balcony (this includes Suites and Mini-Suites, some of which feature one or two separate bedrooms).
A select number of cabins on each ship can fit 3 or 4 passengers, allowing families with kids to share one cabin. Be aware though that most of the 3rd/4rd beds are bunk beds, so if you have a younger child, who may not be comfortable in a bunk bed, you should look for a cruise line offering a sofa or trundle bed.
For families of 5 or 6, several cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian) offer Family Cabins, that can accommodate up to 6 passengers. Those cabins are very limited and sell out very quickly, sometimes a year in advance, especially for peak-times like school holidays.
Keep in mind that even a Family Size cabin may seem pretty crowded with 5 or 6 people in in, so reserving a suite may be the best option for larger families. Suites are larger in size than regular cabins, offer a seating area and sometimes a couple of bedrooms and a couple of bathrooms. Royal Caribbean’s newest ships are known for their amazing family suites, some of them spanning two floors and featuring a slide from one floor to the other.
Another option for families, especially those with older kids, is to get two connecting or adjoining cabins. Connecting cabins have a door going from one room to the other, so the parents can have some privacy (and a lot more space) while still being right next to their kids. Adjoining cabins do not have a connecting door, but if your kids are in their teens, that may be a great option to give everyone a separate area. Connecting cabins, just like Family Cabins are fairly limited in number, so book early.
For parents with babies and toddlers, most cruise lines can provide a pack-n-play or baby crib, but make sure to request in advance.
Price-wise, Inside cabins are of course the most budget-friendly, but be aware that cruise cabins are usually much smaller than the typical hotel room, so having 4 people in one small room may not facilitate the best vacation. Especially if you have younger kids, getting a Balcony cabin is advised because this way the parents can have some quality time at night, having a drink or reading a book on the balcony, while the kids sleep.
While some cruise lines feature limited-time promotions offering “Kids Sail Free” options, most of the time there are no specific discounts for kids on cruises. The way most cruise lines price their sailings is charging one price for the 1st and 2nd person in the cabin and charging a lower price (sometimes as low as $199) for the 3rd/4th person in the cabin, regardless of whether the passengers are kids or adults.
Keep in mind that during the busy months, when lots of parents travel with their kids, it will be hard to find a promotional price for kids and it may be wiser to just get two connecting cabins.Or, plan your trip during a slow, off-peak time to get a better price and more options.
Even if you have a picky eater at home, do not worry. Cruises offer so many food options that there will surely be something for your kids to eat. Most cruise lines offer a Kids Menu in the dining room, and many are open to preparing something special for your child even if it not on the menu. There are also many alternative dining options, especially on the new mega-ships, which offer everything from sushi to hibachi or Johnny Rockets burgers, which kids are known to love.
For babies and toddlers, several cruise lines can supply baby food jars, if requested in advance. And the dining room waiters are usually trained to interact with kids during dinner so many of them will offer a magic trick or two or another fun activity to keep the little ones happy during the longer formal dinners.
Disney Cruises have always been a kid-favorite, offering amazing decor, moving pictures, character meet-ups and lots of real-life magic onboard their ships. Their Star Wars themed sailings, available a few times each yea,r sell out months in advance and parents are often ready to pay premium price to get a piece of the magic.
But Royal Caribbean and Norwegian also offer amazing value for kids and are especially perfect for multi-generation groups because they have plenty of options for adults as well. The latest ships by these cruise lines will even have a racing track (Norwegian Bliss), laser tag and the tallest water slide at sea (Harmony of the Seas). And, Norwegian has a partnership with DreamWorks where kids can meet a lot of famous characters onboard and even participate in some popular game-shows live.
For kids under 5, the mega-ships can be overwhelming, so choosing a smaller ship can be best. Celebrity’s Kids Club has been highly rated with the younger crowd and parents will enjoy the amazing food which Celebrity is well-known for. Plus, the in-room babysitting is a big plus for those whose kids go to bed early.