Family Friendly Holiday Cruise

The glossy images of romantic cruise ships sailing on bright blue waters with some tropical paradise in the distance is a familiar one to those who take regular vacations. The industry pitch to couples, singles, milestone celebrants, and high-energy partygoers is well-documented. The classic cruise ship is a place to let down your hair and release any real-time worries until the vessel docks again on its original shore. What about families with children?

In recent times, cruise ships have been doing more marketing to the family market. This also means that despite a long tradition of setting limitations on ships for children, cruise ship businesses must now do more to make their vacations attractive to younger vacationers. A few companies have taken some bold steps in that direction. From teaming up with Nickelodeon to inviting characters from the animated Shrek franchise on board, the industry is trying to make it easier for entire families to set sail. 

As the Royal Holiday blog indicates, parents have to be cautious about the age at which they start taking their children on family cruises. Some cruise lines have strict policies that set a minimum age for travelers. Parents also have to be prepared for the fact that some cruise activities are not structured for children to participate, so parents must be willing to trust children to staff child care providers. Parents who do not leave their children with paid strangers will have to plan an itinerary to attend only ship-wide functions that allow kids. 

Those cruise lines that have shifted marketing and company policies to accommodate young children have a variety of activities to keep them busy. Many ships have video arcades, waterslides, outdoor movies, miniature golf, and both teen and kids' clubs for extended play. On some cruises, kids even sail free for every trip. 

The kids' and teen clubs on ships serve as a daycare for parents, but travelers should know that most of the time, these care providers have limited responsibilities. They are not allowed to administer medicines to children, feed children who are still taking a bottle or change their diapers. When a child needs this kind of care, his parents are paged to come and address his needs. 

The staff on almost all ships also discourages parents from leaving children in the clubs for an extended number of hours. This makes them irritable, and it makes it tougher for caregivers to manage them. Typically, the kids' clubs are open at night when the adult entertainment is scheduled and care is often only given up until about 1:00 a.m. If the ship has a lot of kids on board, parents should try to get to the clubs early because paid service is offered on a first come, first served basis.

One area of concern for both parents and cruise lines that bears mentioning is public swimming pools. To protect the other guests on the ship, young children still in diapers or who are not yet potty trained are not allowed to get in pools. This is mostly a sanitation issue, but children this young also have to be guarded at all times to prevent accidents. 

While there are parents who still enjoy the luxury of entering the cruise ship experience without their children, accommodations for children is a gift for families. It puts the minds of parents at ease to know their children can be with them while they vacation. It also gives some families a needed break from the yearly amusement park or road trip.

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