12 tips for surviving a luxury cruise with children

Take the kids on a luxury cruise, how dare you? Luxury cruise ships are the domain of wealthy mature couples seeking fine dining, personalized service, elegant suites, and onboard spaces free of rowdy, energetic kids. Or so say luxury cruise fanatics on online forums every time someone brings up the idea of ​​taking their family on a luxury cruise.

Ignore them. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your preferred luxury standards just because you’re sailing as a foursome (or more) rather than a duo. And unless your cruise line expressly prohibits children under a certain age, there’s no reason why you can’t take the younger members of your family.

The key to a luxury cruise with children is to know what to expect from the ship and what to expect from your children, and then plan accordingly. If you’re ready to ditch the Disney jungle cruise for a week or more in favor of a luxury cruise, follow these 12 tips for successful luxury sailing with your junior cruisers.

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Take a look at your children

Is your child well behaved and courteous, or does he routinely throw massive tantrums at dinner? Does your teen prefer to make friends over the holidays or hang out with her family? Does your middle school child get bored easily without continuous activities or can she find her own fun anywhere?

The answers to these questions will help you decide if an adult luxury cruise vacation is right for your family. If your child can’t handle long dinners, a ship with no water slides or climbing walls, and few to no children on board, now might not be the right time to splurge on that dream luxury cruise. You can always wait a few years and try again.

On the other hand, if your budding foodies love to try new cuisines, earned elite status from the airlines as toddlers, and call each other by name with the Ritz staff, they’ll be a perfect fit.

Choose ships with children’s programming

12 tips for surviving a luxury cruise with children
Naturalists aboard Paul Gauguin run his Moana Explorer program for children. PAUL GAUGUIN CRUISES

Some luxury cruise lines outright prohibit children (Viking) or have a minimum age (Windstar), but others welcome children and offer special activities during trips with larger numbers of children than usual. Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers its Club Mariner program for children ages 5-17, with daily programming led by youth advisors. Paul Gauguin Cruises runs the Moana Explorer program to introduce children to the natural wonders of the South Pacific on summer voyages and vacations.

Other lines, like Seabourn, may not have an official children’s program, but will run activities when families sail in abundance. Be sure to ask your travel agent what to expect if you’re traveling with young children who could benefit from age-appropriate games and crafts.

Plan for family time

On a large ship, your children can spend all day in the kids’ club or run with a group of teenagers to the sports court and water slides, leaving the adults to enjoy the spa or sundeck in peace. On a luxury cruise ship, with fewer options for the kids, you need plenty of family time.

This is a good thing. Book your massage for a weekend at home and a date night for your regular babysitter. You don’t get many opportunities to spend entire days with your kids without work emails and homework getting in the way. Take this opportunity to go to shows together, laugh while your child tries foie gras for the first time, or have tea, nibble on scones and just talk to each other. Time together is a greater luxury than you could have imagined.

Choose the right itinerary

12 tips for surviving a luxury cruise with children
ROBERTO MOJOLA/SYSAWORLD/GETTY IMAGES

If you’re worried that long days at sea on a luxury cruise ship won’t go down well with your kids, look for an itinerary that’s in port nearly every day. You can plan family fun off the ship and then come back on board for gourmet dinners and a nightly show or movie in the cabin before bed. everybody wins

Also, be sure to choose an age-appropriate destination. Young children may prefer a tropical cruise with plenty of beach time to strolling the cobblestone streets of quaint French and Italian towns. Active tweens and teens can enjoy ziplining, hiking, and kayaking at Alaska, while bookish kids may want to see historic sites in Greece and Turkey.

Let your children select their activities on board

Other luxury cruise ships will tell you that there are no activities for children on luxury cruise ships, but I have seen many children on luxury cruise ships and I can tell you that this is not true. Children like all kinds of activities, not just those planned for them.

On a Seabourn cruise, I was on a daily trivia team with a family that included a 10-year-old girl. She was excited about the daily game and provided several responses. Another boy and his grandmother always showed up for afternoon tea and seemed happy as a clam. I’ve seen kids on Regent Seven Seas enjoying the pool, not to mention the ice cream. My own kids have surprised me with their interest in Captain’s Q&A or shuffleboard games, so don’t assume that just because there’s no kid-specific programming, your kids will be bored.

Make use of room service.

Luxury cruise ships are known for their spacious cabins and complimentary in-room dining. Take advantage of these benefits and order meals in your stateroom when the kids are tired or can’t sit down to dinner quietly. They can munch on chicken wings while watching cartoons, and you don’t have to miss out on the evening’s culinary selections. You can even have your dinner served plate by plate in the main restaurant.

Or order coffee for yourself and cereal to arrive in the morning while everyone gets ready, then walk over to the buffet for a hot breakfast without anyone getting hungry.

Bring snacks, or find them on board

No matter where you travel, I insist that you should always pack snacks for the kids. Whether you need a mid-hike pick-me-up or an alternative to a fancy lunch, make sure you have pre-packaged bars, bags of applesauce, or bags of golden brownies or pretzels ready to prevent a crash. Cruise ships do not always have snacks for children available.

Even if you don’t bring your own food, remember that you are on a luxury cruise ship. Ask your butler to bring out a selection of kid-friendly foods (cheese and crackers, grapes, popcorn, cookies) daily at 3 p.m. appetite for blinis with caviar. If you can’t order it at noon, save your breakfast cereal and yogurt to store in your suite’s mini-fridge. And find the onboard cafeteria with snacks throughout the day where you can stop in for a quick bite anytime snacks roll around.

Related: The ultimate guide to lunch and dinner cruises

entertainment package

Luxury cruise ships will have some entertainment planned during the day, but not as much as on huge cruise ships. Trivia, cooking demonstrations and guest lectures are popular pastimes, but many luxury cruisers prefer a relaxing day playing cards in a lounge or reading by the pool.

If your family needs more excitement, you’ll need to bring the fun. Pack those portable video game players, tablets loaded with movies and games, a deck of cards, and maybe even some travel-sized board games. For young children, you may want to bring a coloring book and crayons, sticker books, dolls, or toy cars—whatever keeps them happy on a slow day at sea.

Participate with the crew

12 tips for surviving a luxury cruise with children
SEVEN SEAS REGENCY CRUISES

If some of your crewmates are standoffish, I bet your crew won’t be. Many have families left behind at home and don’t get the chance to interact with young children as often on luxury ships. They’ll be eager to adore their junior cruisers, bringing them special gifts or turning them into origami animals from the daily shows. Get involved with the crew members and they’ll help keep the kids happy and take the stress off you.

Don’t count on babysitting

Most luxury cruise lines don’t offer in-room child care, and if they do, it’s only if there’s a willing crew member available when you need it. It is a courtesy, not a guaranteed service. Don’t take a luxury cruise assuming someone will be able to stay in the room with your children while they sleep while you enjoy the nightlife on board.

If you really intend to spend time alone with the adults on the ship, you’ll want to bring your own babysitter or babysitter for your children. That could mean booking your children and the babysitter in a room next to yours, or sharing a suite with your family and booking the babysitter in a lower category cabin. It probably means reserving a second cabin, which isn’t cheap on a high-end line, but the expense could be worth it if everyone gets to enjoy the ride more with an extra set of eyes and hands.

Related: 5 secrets to get a luxury cruise for less

Ignore the side eye

Unfortunately, while many cruise ships will be happy to see children on board, some of your shipmates will give you the look or mumble comments about your choice to sail with kids, especially at a time when your kids aren’t 100% perfect angels. Don’t let them bother you. You have as much right as they do to bring your family on a luxury cruise.

Trust me, I’ve seen plenty of adults whining and throwing tantrums or behaving inappropriately on luxury cruise ships. Your kids are acting their age, those people knew better. Still, most of the kids I’ve seen on luxury cruise ships were having a great time and not causing any trouble.

Take the right path, nod your head and smile at the naysayers, and continue to enjoy your great family getaway.

Consider a suite on a mass market cruise ship

12 tips for surviving a luxury cruise with children
Wonder of the seas. ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL

If after reading these tips, you’re questioning your decision to take the kids on a luxury cruise, consider reserving a suite on one of the big mass-market ships. lines like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line pamper suite guests with exclusive restaurants, lounges, pools and sundecks for an upscale experience, while providing access to all children’s programming, Broadway shows, games laser tag, water slides, rock climbing walls, ropes courses, zip lines and go-karts available on board.

You can enjoy great dining, spacious cabins, and personalized service knowing your kids have plenty of options to keep them busy. Plus, you can send them to the kids’ club for fun until 10pm while you get that much-needed date night.

Bottom line

Luxury cruises are designed for adults, but that doesn’t mean you and your kids can’t have an amazing vacation on a luxury ship. Plan for success, but leave room for surprises, and you’ll end up with a memorable family vacation that doesn’t compromise on the luxury standards you prefer.

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