Cruising the World with Your Child
Have you been wondering what it would be like to take your children on an international cruise? Or have you visited countries sailing on a cruise with your family and you think it’s the best thing in the world? Well, you’re not alone. According to a study conducted by AAA earlier this year, over 58 million Americans are considering a cruise in the next two years (Edmonds, 2022). Prior to the pandemic, ocean cruising had been steadily increasing over the last decade with almost 30 million passengers cruising worldwide (Statista Search Department, 2022). If this many people are cruising, there must be something to this method of travel, right?
Why should you consider cruising for your family?
For most families, convenience is what comes to mind when you cruise. If you want to see multiple destinations, you can do that with ease as you only need to unpack once, if at all, since you’re on a moving hotel. Cruises, especially ocean cruises, are also considered to be fairly affordable, when considering other forms of traveling. This has especially been true since the pandemic. While there are cruise lines that are more luxurious than others, and therefore more expensive, there seems to be an option for almost everyone. Entertainment is another consideration. The types of entertainment will vary between cruise lines and drastically when you’re considering ocean vs. river cruises, but the point is that some form of entertainment is available.
Should I choose an ocean cruise or river cruise?
This is an easier question than you may think. If your children are younger than eight years old, stick with ocean cruises. If your children are older than eight, make sure they are entertained by sites, history, and experiences. If your children need constant stimulation and the idea of experiencing new cultures sounds like torture to them, avoid river cruises. Ocean cruises are like amusement parks and a dream for most kids. Parents also get to relax knowing their children are entertained. Entertainment on river cruises is the sites and activities themselves. There is minimal entertainment on the actual ship because most people are too tired from that day’s excursions that relaxing sounds like the best option. Speaking of excursions, on a river cruise, there is usually at least one or two excursions included each day, which is a big difference from ocean cruising. Ocean cruising is more about the ship, while river cruising is more about the destination and experiencing the culture.
Don’t forget about the people! This is a big factor for many cruisers. If you like a quieter experience, river cruising is better for you. River cruise ships only hold around 150 passengers, while ocean cruise ships hold on average 3,000 passengers, up to over 6,000 passengers. Now, while this does sound like a lot and you definitely see the people, because the ocean cruise ships are so much bigger than a river cruise ship, you can still find a rather quiet corner of the cruise ship if you would like. As far as the size of the cruise ships, there are advantages to the larger ships vs. the smaller ships. The larger ocean cruise ships can accommodate more room types, food, and entertainment options than a river cruise ship. The advantages of having a smaller river cruise ship are that you can go to smaller, less touristy ports than ocean cruise ships. This means that you get a more intimate, cultural experience at your ports and you’re not battling the extremely busy ports when thousands of people disembark to visit the same places as you.
It is common for people to think that cruises are too restricting. It’s true in that you can’t go where you want when you want. You are restricted to the cruise itinerary, and you must be back when the cruise line tells you to be back. This can be frustrating for people who want to spend more time in a particular port. The great thing is that you know your itinerary before you book a cruise. If you want to spend more time in a destination, make sure to pay close attention to your itinerary. Many people choose a cruise that leaves or returns from a city they really want to see and stay for a couple nights in a hotel before or after the cruise. Similarly, if you want to have more or fewer sailing days, take that into consideration when you’re looking at the itinerary. As far as food options, river cruise options are more limited as there is usually only one dinner time. Again, since the experience is more about the destination, the dinners are timed perfectly so almost everyone is ready to eat at the scheduled time. That doesn’t mean the food is not high quality though! With ocean cruises, you are usually only restricted to specific times if you want to eat with everyone. If you don’t care, there are several food options that don’t require eating at a certain time. It is very rare that you ever hear about a person coming back from any cruise complaining about being hungry. Most every passenger gains weight by the end of the trip because of the ample food options.
Keep in mind
Some cruise lines cater to different passengers. Some are known more as booze cruises, some as family cruises, cruises for older passengers, and cruises for those who like luxury. Using a travel agent who specializes in ocean or river cruises will help to ensure you have the experience you are looking for and get to enjoy every aspect of your international family vacation.
What are your concerns about traveling with children on a cruise for your next overseas travel adventure? If you love cruising with your family abroad, what did I miss? I would love to hear from you! Please post your comments below.
To hear more about family travel abroad experiences, travel tips, and more, listen to the Planes, Trains, & Kids Abroad travel podcast at: https://bigworldpub.com/listen-to-travel-podcast/
Written by: Erika Bud. You can find out more about the author, the Travel Rangers book series, and travel podcast at: http://bigworldpub.com/
Edmonds, E. 2022. Ship Ahoy: 40% of Americans Just as Likely to Take a Cruise as Before the Pandemic. AAA Newsroom, https://newsroom.aaa.com/2022/03/ship-ahoy-40-of-americans-just-as-likely-to-take-a-cruise-as-before-the-pandemic/
Statista Research Department (2022, July 27) Number of ocean cruise passengers worldwide from 2009 to 2021 [Infographic]. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/385445/number-of-passengers-of-the-cruise-industry-worldwide/