By Jamie Pearson
Up until recently, I'd never been on a cruise with my kids. I'd toyed with the idea of course. What mother hasn't? You pack once, see the world, and sleep through the boring parts of the trip. Oh, and there's no cooking or cleaning either.
Then a few weeks ago, my children and I sailed to the Bahamas aboard the sparkling Norwegian Gem. As a lifelong independent traveler, I was a little dubious. But you know what? It was fun. The kids loved the larger-than-life shipboard amenities, and I loved the freedom from all but the most trivial decisions.
Considering taking a cruise with your own family? Here are five ways to boost your trip's fun factor.
1. Splurge on shore excursions
Your cruise fare covers food and lodging, but you should expect to spend more—sometimes a lot more. Spa treatments, gambling, soft drinks, cocktails, and souvenirs are some of the many temptations. My advice? If you're on a tight budget, save your money for one or two unforgettable shore excursions instead.
My kids got to hold a baby alligator, hug a dolphin, and plunge down a plexiglass waterslide tunnel through a shark tank. These experiences didn't come cheap, but it's no exaggeration to say they were the highlights of the trip.
2. Be ready for barf
Some people will tell you that modern cruise ships are so big that you don't feel the waves. This is complete nonsense. Cruise ships may be big, but the ocean is bigger. Seasickness can happen to anyone, so it's best to be prepared.
Since I would personally do anything to avoid even the shortest episode of nausea, I spent approximately the GDP of a small nation on motion sickness remedies before I so much as left dry land. I brought Benadryl (for the kids), Dramamine (for me), and homeopathic Queasy Pops and motion sickness wristbands (for everyone). We didn't wind up getting sick, but the peace of mind my pharmaceutical stash gave me was worth every penny.
3. Leave your social phobias at home
At the risk of stating the obvious, mass-market cruise ships are, well, full of people. The Norwegian Gem carries a whopping 2,400 passengers, and isn't even close to the being the biggest thing afloat.
The crush of humanity is most noticeable during the mandatory safety drill, at the evening shows, and at the convenient (but much-maligned) buffets. If you need a break, consider booking a table at one of the smaller specialty restaurants. Other quiet places include the library, the chapel, and any sundeck that doesn't have a pool. And if you get really demophobic (i.e., afraid of crowded places), there's always the sanctuary of your stateroom.
4. Forget cool
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who do the electric slide, and those who stand snickering on the sidelines while other people do the electric slide. For maximum cruising fun, you've really got to jump right in. Plus, your participation sets a good example for your kids.
On our cruise, there were manifold opportunities for public humiliation. In just one day there was a Wii Fit tournament on a two-story television (extreme hula hoop anyone?), limbo, Caribbean line dancing, karaoke, and a magic show in desperate need of volunteers. Never in my life have I been so glad not to know a single soul.
5. Go with the flow
It takes a lot of time, organization, and cooperation to get 2,400 passengers on and off a ship of this size, and it happens every single time you pull into port. Breathe deeply and join the queue (but only when they call your number).
Also, days in port aren't nearly long enough to see and do everything, so don't even try. Give yourself permission to relax. Get off the ship, do something fun, get on the ship, and repeat. That's cruising.
About the Writer
Jamie Pearson is a writer and mother of two. She sees the funny side of family travel, and blogs about it at www.TravelSavvyMom.com.