By Chris Robinson (adapted by Ensemble Travel Group) · November 2021
The pandemic has reemphasized the importance of sharing travel time with our family, no matter how scattered across North America or the globe they may be.
Cruise vacations are perfect for larger family gatherings. Home ports in North America and the Caribbean are convenient hubs for family members who may be flying in from different locations. The major cruise lines are experts at catering to extended families, and a good travel advisor can weave together all the family strands into a single, memorable vacation that will work for everyone.
You can do so much on a modern cruise ship. There is something for everyone in the family. For the younger members, there are kids’ clubs, water slides, and endless kid’s activities. For the more adventurous adults, there are skydiving simulators and climbing walls; and, for older family members, there are casinos, piano bars, and some very impressive evening shows. Cruise ships have space in their restaurants and common areas to accommodate large family groups, but they also have enough room to escape for those needing some alone time.
Cabin accommodations are flexible for all sorts of family units and budgets. Family groups may use balcony suites for the matriarchs and patriarchs to hold court. And, at the other end of the price spectrum, inside cabins with additional bunk beds are a perfect cost-effective option.
Excursions in the ports of call enable everyone to fully experience the places visited on a cruise. They also provide an opportunity to plan a mix of trips, some with the entire family and others with different parts of the family pursuing their own interests. Being part of a larger family group gives you the option of creating your own, personalized destination experiences that best reflect the family’s needs and interests. Again, your travel advisor will be able to help select and book the best, most cost-effective trips for your group.
Lastly, it is always a good idea to build in some pre-cruise time around the home port. Arriving a day or two ahead gives everyone a chance to meet up in advance and shake off any jet lag accumulated (especially if there are family members flying in from other continents). Most importantly, it also lessens the risk of missing the cruise departure because of flight delays. Arriving early allows you to relax and maximize your time together, from that first thrilling walk up the gangplank to the last sunset cocktail on your final night onboard.
To organize your own successful family cruise vacation, consider these tips:
First, plan early. It can be challenging to gain consensus about timing and destinations, so plan ahead of time when the cruise lines publish their new itineraries. Ensure all family members participate in this initial planning phase so everyone feels ownership of the vacation. The key elements to agree upon are timing (perhaps the cruise is celebrating a family landmark, or maybe it needs to be tied to school holidays), destination (general regions, like the Caribbean, Mediterranean or Alaska), duration (perhaps just a long weekend, or most likely seven nights) and budget, which may vary between family members.
Next, engage with your trusted travel advisor who will be able to pull together flights, recommend the optimum cruise line and cabin needs, identify any applicable group discounts, and finally, book all the arrangements in one neat package. Having an expert coordinate the many options will ensure no single family member has to take on all the work involved.