I’ll be honest, I’m not quite sure how it happened… One minute I was booking a family camping trip to Devon and before I knew it I had booked our first family cruise! We have been tempted by a cruise holiday for years. My husband and I met whilst working onboard P&O Cruises in 2005. Three incredible years later, after working in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Baltics and circumnavigating the world on a three-month world cruise, (not on the same ship unfortunately, we were literally ships passing in the night!) we left our life at sea to set up home together in the UK.
Our boys are now old enough to share our love of exploring new places, to sit (fairly!) quietly in restaurants and attend the onboard kids’ clubs. We therefore decided that a cruise would be the perfect holiday to enjoy some quality family time.
We were of course keen to sail with P&O Cruises. When we called reservations the only four-berth cabin they had over the dates we wished to sail was onboard the Ventura. Neither of us know much about this particular ship as it came into service after we left P&O. We were delighted to find after booking, that Ventura has been named by Fodor as one of the Best Cruise Ships for Kids! According to Fodor, Ventura has been built with families very much in mind and has the biggest kids’ club of any ship in the P&O Cruises fleet. I know my boys are going to love the age specific clubs, exclusive family pools and the family friendly shore excursions!
I am very aware that cruising with our boys is going to be slightly (ahem!) different to when we used to work onboard. In preparation for our family cruise, we introduced our boys to cruising a few weeks ago by visiting friends onboard P&O Cruises Britannia. Both Charlie and Harry absolutely loved exploring the ship and checking out the kids facilities.
To ensure we make the most of our time onboard I have gathered together tips from some of my fellow travel bloggers who have experienced cruising with their kids. If you are considering booking a family cruise you may also find these tips very handy…
Tips for cruising with kids by experienced cruisers
Claire from Tin Box Traveller enjoyed her first family cruise this year onboard the Carnival Vista (another ship which was included in Fodor’s list). As a mum of two girls, aged 3 & 1, she recommends being flexible about bedtimes to fully take advantage of the onboard evening entertainment –
“We’re fairly regimented when it comes to bed times at home. Bath time, pyjamas, warm milk and bed for 6/7pm. However, on our cruise we quickly realised we’d have to vary this a bit. Tin Box Tot was keen to go to the evening parties at the kids club and her sister was too young to be allowed to join her. Rather than sit in our cabin with a sleeping one-year-old while the Tot enjoyed the onboard nightlife, we popped Tin Box Baby into her PJs and pushchair and took her to dinner with us. More often than not she drifted off to sleep while we enjoyed our date nights. We also often got to lay in the morning after!”
Claire also recommends taking port days at a slower pace. (I have to admit, from my experience of managing the shore excursions department it is going to be very difficult not to sign us up for full day excursions in every port!)
“When each day brings a new port and potential adventure it can be tempting to throw yourself into non-stop sightseeing. My advice when cruising with young children is to pace yourself, especially when visiting hot countries. Most days we opted for a morning of exploring, leaving us the afternoon to recharge by the pool back onboard. This made for fewer toddler and baby burn out moments and meant we all still had energy to enjoy the evening entertainment.”
Claire’s full review of the Carnival Vista can be found here – 11 reasons Carnival Vista is a family friendly cruise ship
Sarah from Extraordinary Chaos first booked a family cruise seven years ago and has been addicted to holidays at sea ever since! She recently returned from a cruise with Royal Caribbean International with her husband and two active boys ages 10 & 15. Sarah recommends that we take full advantage of the onboard kids clubs…
“Don’t rule out the kids club, before cruising we were not a fan of clubs and never put the boys in them. But after a particularly grumpy day half way through our first cruise we gave it a try. We have never looked back, the kids’ clubs are so much fun. We have to beg the boys to stay out now to spend time with us.”
Sarah also advises not to stress out about my two picky eaters…
“Don’t worry about fussy eaters, cruise restaurants are so accommodating, I remember one cruise when Jack was little, he would only eat plain pasta, rice, vegetables and apples. The waiters were wonderful. Every night they made exactly what he wanted and even carved him an apple swan to make him smile. It made out holiday so much less stressful, we still got to fine dine and Jack was happy.”
Sarah’s review of her family cruise can be found here Why your family will love cruising with Royal Caribbean
Christine from Tapped out Travellers has cruised twice, the first time with Disney Cruises and then onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 with her 2.5 year old. Christine also has some great advice about dining onboard with young children –
“With young kids, take the 1st sitting for dinner. Older families or childless couples tend to take the 2nd. This is both courteous and practical – no child will stay calm at 9pm waiting for a fancy dinner they probably won’t eat. Munchkin went to the buffet upstairs for his dinner at 5, we snacked. We brought him back to day care for 6pm every other night, then mummy and daddy had a nice quiet date night. But boy do little monsters look adorable in 3-piece suits! After 2 or 3 nights we figured out what he liked on the menu so he ordered the same thing each time he had dinner in the main dining hall.”
Christine also has some great tips regarding packing for a cruise with kids…
“Pack your bags wisely. If your checked luggage gets lost, who knows when it will meet you. A friend lost hers on the way to a Mediterranean cruise; the luggage followed her from port to port, just missing her, until it was “misplaced” along the way. So don’t pack all your clothes in a single bag. Try to spread everyone’s items over all the bags, that way not everything is misplaced if a bag does go missing. This means essential items will need to be on your person; documents, medication, money, jewellery, good shoes, and toiletries. When packing for baby take into consideration that most ships have a shop which sells limited baby items although they are not cheap.”
Christine’s review of her time onboard the QM2 can be found here – Planning a 7 day cruise onboard Cunard
Cathy from Mummy Travels cruised with her baby onboard a Carnival ship in 2013. She has some great advice about booking the right cabin.
“It’s tempting to save the pennies and go for an indoor stateroom if you know you’re only going to be sleeping and showering there. But if you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, it can be worth upgrading – more space to fit a cot, more space for them to play safely, and a balcony where you can relax by the sea while they nap, rather than cowering quietly in a dark corner.”
Fortunately, we are travelling as a multi generational family with my parents-in-law who have booked a deluxe balcony cabin. They are most excited about the extra spacious cabin, the bathtub and the cocktails/canapés they will have delivered to the cabin on formal nights… I however have spotted that their cabin comes with a sofa bed! This is going to come in very handy for when my husband and I fancy a child-free evening and leisurely morning!
Cathy shares more of her tips here – Child friendly cruising: Need to know
If this article has inspired you to book a family cruise you may find these cruise reviews by more of my favourite family travel bloggers useful.
Nichola at Global Mouse has reviewed her family cruise with P&O Cruises – Two-week family cruise onboard P&O Cruise Azura
Gretta from Mums Do Travel enjoyed her first cruise with her daughter onboard the MSC Preziosa – Cruising for beginners
Monika at Mum on the Brink shares her tips from cruising with Royal Caribbean – 12 things to expect on the Oasis of the Seas
Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders shares her review of cruising with Princess Cruises – Review of the Emerald Princess.
If you are apprehensive about leaving your kids with the onboard child care staff this interview by Penny over at Space in Your Case will put your mind at ease – Childcare on holiday: Ask the experts – Princess Cruises
Zena at Zena’s Suitcase shares her advice from cruising with NCL – Things to do for kids onboard NCL – Norwegian Epic
And finally, if you are looking for advice on what to pack for a cruise, check out my guides – What to pack for a cruise by an experienced cruiser and Essential packing list for cruising with kids.
I will be sharing more tips for cruising with kids when I return from our cruise onboard P&O Cruises Ventura, so keep checking back over the next few months!
Copyright – Article images as credited above. Featured image of Ventura on home page copyright P&O Cruises.
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