How to Cruise with Kids
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Choosing Your Excursions:
The great part about cruising is that your ship will stop at multiple ports during your cruise vacation. You have the option to simply debark and explore the area on your own or book an excursion. Excursions are organized group tours and experiences.
My number one tip for cruise excursions (whether you go as a family, couple or even solo) is:
Some sites I look to for info:
If you simply google cruise excursions + destination, you’ll find tons of resources to help you plan your trip. You’ll find reviews, ideas and even private tour operator websites.
You basically have 3 excursion-booking options:
- Through the cruise ship (beforehand or while on board)
- Independently with an excursion company beforehand
- Directly with an independent tour company once you’ve debarked at the port
Here’s where you can find the excursions for each destination on a few of the major cruise lines:
- Carnival Cruise Line Excursions
- Celebrity Cruise Line Excursions
- Norwegian Cruise Line Excursions
- Princess Cruise Line Excursions
- Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Excursions
Just navigate to your ports to see the list of available excursions available there as well as any age requirements, price and a brief description of what is included.
A few tips and things to note:
Excursions purchased through your ship are pricier (sometimes more than double) the cost of purchasing independently. The benefit is that you’re guaranteed not to be stranded if something unfortunate happens and you’re late returning to the ship. The con (outside of possible cost) is that it’s often more crowded.
So far, we’ve done excursions booked independently and have never had a problem getting back to the port on time. On our past 2 cruises we took excursions through the cruise lines (Royal Caribbean and Norwegian) and had an enjoyable time on both.
We have yet to visit a port that doesn’t have independent tour operators, taxis, excursion companies etc right at the pier just waiting for all the cruise ship passengers who don’t yet have plans. If you choose not to plan beforehand, you’re not out of luck.
Traveling with a family, I would recommend booking ahead of time, whether independently or via the cruise line’s website just so you are certain there is something to accommodate your group.
Four things to consider with cruise excursions as a family:
1. Consider your children’s age/temperament
Your children’s ages determines a lot of what you can do at each port. Does your child require a stroller? What can and can’t your child do? Are there any fears to be concerned with? Will they need a nap? Can they handle long bus rides? Keep the needs of the children in your group top of mind when choosing excursions. When you look through the excursion descriptions they will let you know if it is completely unsuitable for children. (ie: cave tubing in Belize)
2. Consider breaking into groups
If your group is split on what to do, try splitting up to satisfy everyone. Yes the trip is about togetherness, but doing separate activities allows you to have fun stories to tell when you’re enjoying quality time together back on board the ship. This works well if your family has a mix of risk-taking adventurers and those with more tame sensibilities. Also it’s a great option if there’s a large mix of ages. (I secretly look forward to the day my daughter enjoys shopping and spa days so we can do that while the boys go off gallivanting.)
3. Consider staying on board
At each port most people (I’m talking 90% or more!) get off the ship to explore the destination. If you’re at a port you have visited several times, or have no interest in…or just want the ship to yourself, you may want to consider staying on board. You and your family will be able to enjoy all the ship has to offer with no lines, no waiting, and no drama. I first stayed on board on our Bahamas cruise last year and we tried again a few months ago with the kids in St. Thomas. Felt luxurious having an empty ship and no wait for anything.
4. Consider your budget
Paying for a group excursion is a lot pricier than paying for a party of two. If budget factors into your vacation plans then choose an option where kids under a certain age are free or at a very reduced rate. You may also want to consider chartering your own excursion if your group is 6-8 passengers or more. It may turn out to be more economical. Some vendors will even work with you on the price and you have the bonus on being able to tailor your experience to exactly what your family wants to do.
Remember: There is no need to purchase an excursion at all. You can stay on board, or just walk around the port.
Stay tuned for How to Cruise with Kids (Part 4):
Life On Board Your Cruise Ship