Jan 5, 2016

Does Cruising With Kids Makes Sense?

Cruising.  Everyone seems to be doing it these days.  But what about our back-packer-budget-independent travel style?  And with kids in tow?  For a while now, we've wondered, Would a cruise work for us?

Well recently, we finally joined the ranks, embarking on our first cruise.  It was only a short one--3nts/4d long, all at sea traveling from Vancouver B.C. Canada to Los Angeles California. This short trip seemed like the perfect way to 'get our feet wet'.

Port of Vancouver--that's our ship on the right.

I admit it--I was a big fan of the 80's TV show, The Love Boat.  Sun-filled episodes, filled with romance, glamour, adventure and travel.  This show single-handedly ingrained in me what cruising would be like.  And our cruise line was Princess too, just like the show!

So how did it go?  Was our trip anything like The Love Boat?

The Verdict:  We loved it!  For us, this was the first time that we'd done an all-inclusive sort of thing and it was just so easy.  No worrying about carrying money or cost.  Without any stops, we were also able to concentrate on just our cruising experience.

The atmosphere on our cruise was independent and laid back, not quite as glamorous as The Love Boat!   Perhaps it was due to the short duration of our cruise, or maybe it was due to the route (Vancouver-LA).  There were no formal evenings requiring formal attire (which can occur on cruises but would still be optional).  Some people still dressed up a bit in the evenings but it did not look overdone.  

Everyday there was a menu provided to us in our cabins of the day's activities so that you could plan what you'd like to do (or not).  Think 'Julie McCoy'!  Plus the ship was so large that it was fun to just explore.

The cruise was very kid-friendly too, with lots of families on board, again nothing like The Love Boat.   From what I understand, most cruise lines offer a Kids' Club.  On the Princess, there were 3 different clubs, based on age groups: Princess Pelicans 3-7yrs; Shockwaves 8-12yrs; and the Teen Lounge 13-17yrs.  The Kids' Club was included for no extra cost. 

Everyday there were different 'sessions' for the clubs:  morning, afternoon and after dinner.  You could attend some or all, on a first come first serve basis.  We did notice that the younger club had stricter capacity ratios as well as in/out signing procedures.  Kids Club is also a good way to give the kids time to meet new friends, and for parents to do their own thing.

There were a variety of activities for our kids in the 8-12yr old group ranging from video game tournaments, to craft activities to some sporting games like dodgeball.  Overall, our kids enjoyed their time there during the morning and afternoon sessions.  They didn't attend the evening session as it would mean that they would miss out on the 'live show of the day', which we all really enjoyed.

Live Production called Magic To Do

One of the main reasons that we decided to take this cruise was that it was a deal too good to resist.  Think of a cruise as basically an All-Inclusive type holiday.   Your meals and activities are all included, although drinks such as pop, and alcohol were extra.  (You could get complimentary juice and coffee at most mealtimes, as well as table water.)  You could see great quality live entertainment throughout the day, with the bigger productions held in the evenings.   You could even order room service anytime for no extra cost.  (Note:  certain premium restaurants had a 'surcharge' for dining there.  We didn't go to any of these but still had plenty of dining options to chose from.)

Watching a juggler at the 'Piazza'

However in hindsight, we think one week would be an ideal duration for a cruise.   With only 3nights, we were just getting the hang of 'the system' by the time our cruise ended.  Also a warmer (but not hot) climate should would also allow you to utilise the outdoor facilities such as the swimming pools. (We did get lucky with the weather on the last 1.5days of the trip.)
Enjoying the hot tub and pool on our last day.

All sorts of people cruise these days: young, old, single, married, and most of all, families!  We would definitely do it again.

4 Tips for booking a cruise.

1.  Sign up for email notifications on the cruise lines.  While we first learned of this cruise through a travel website, we  found that the price was lower when we booked directly with the cruise line.

2.  Cruise lines have their own reputations, such as catering more for families, or for younger partying types, have better food or entertainment, etc.  While this did not factor into our decision, we did find Princess Cruises to be a good all-rounder.

3.  Book early.  We booked it in August 2015 for a mid-December 2015 departure.  Even though the kid's fare was the same as the Adults in this case, at $40 per night per person, including taxes, it was still a deal.  As it got closer to departure, we noticed that the price did go up.

4.  Inside Cabin or Balcony?
On a budget, especially on such a short cruise, we found that the Inside Cabin was fine.  We were rarely in it, other than to sleep at night. In any case, our winter route offered little to look at and a distinct possibility of poor weather and visibility.  In terms of location of your cabin, the center of the ship offers the most stability, and the forward cabins the least.

Enjoying room service for breakfast in our 'Inside Cabin', which was surprisingly spacious.

Hope this helps--happy cruising!

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