If your family is like ours, you constantly are on the hunt for fun and unique travel experiences with the kids. For us, the biggest challenge is having enough time (and money) to take all the trips we have on our wish list.
Whether your goal is to book a dream trip or maximize the value and experience of a family vacation, consider a winter or spring cruise in a tropical destination such as the Bahamas, Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean on one of a handful of family-friendly cruise lines.
Experienced cruisers know some times of year are better than others to get good deals. “Wave Season,” the period between January and March, is the very best time to save big bucks. This is when cruise lines throw in cabin upgrades, extra on-board credits and other sailing perks for practically nothing. In short, now is a great time to stretch your dollars far.
If you are in the market for family cruises this year, consider these three family-friendly cruise lines to entertain your brood.
Disney Cruise Line
If you are looking for a magical cruise experience worth the splurge, you will love Disney Cruise Line (DCL). DCL has many ships from which to choose, including the Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, and Disney Magic.Many of these ships leave out of Port Canaveral, Florida, which is a short drive from Orlando.
I must admit that family cruising was low on my travel wish list before our experience on the Disney Dream. A number of wonderful amenities and programs changed my mind.
One of those programs: The youth clubs. My older daughter loved Disney’s Oceaneer Club for kids ages 4 to 11, and we felt very comfortable dropping off our younger girl in the Small World Nursery. Each child received an ID bracelet upon check-in. After that, they were free to explore the club, dance, play games and make new friends. The clubs made the trip fun for me and my husband, too; the alone time gave us renewed energy and a chance to chill out and have a cocktail, enjoy a spa treatment, or indulge in a romantic dinner, all while knowing the kids were in good hands.
The staterooms on the Disney Dream also were, well, dreamy. We didn’t spend much time in our guest quarters, but the room was very cozy and comfortable. The girls loved the pull-down bunk bed. A big plus for me was the split baths with separate sinks, so one family member could shower while the other brushed her (or his) teeth.
We saw one live show on our short sailing (and it was awesome), but the Broadway-style productions and entertainment options for families are endless. One of the most popular options is “Disney’s Believe,” a musical theater production that features more than 20 Disney characters. My kids also really enjoyed meeting Donald, and gathering together at night for celebrations on the pool deck. The kids still talk about this trip as one of their favorites of all time. The entertainment was a big part of why.
Finally, of course, we loved spending time on Castaway Cay. Reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests, Castaway Cay basically is a private island for you and your closest shipmates. After an overnight sail from Port Canaveral, we awoke in the morning docked at Castaway Cay. The beauty of the island’s gorgeous white-sand beach and turquoise waters blew me away. You can spend the day on the beach in a furnished cabana, play in the water, swim with stingrays, dance with Lilo and Stitch, take a bike ride around the island, or just relax in the warm Bahamian sunshine.
Viewfinder Tip: Almost all cruise lines have “New to Cruising” guides to help first-timers decide on the perfect itinerary for their families.
Other family-friendly cruise options
If you are looking for other family-friendly cruise options, I recommend trying out a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship. NCL has fun “Nickelodeon at Sea” programs on which you can sing along with Spongebob and friends, dance at a Dora the Explorer-themed dance party, and meet a variety of additional Nickelodeon characters.
Carnival Cruise Lines also offer families great options for family fun; my family is excited about a new program coming to these ships in 2016. The program, dubbed Seuss at Sea, is expected to include many Dr. Seuss-themed activities and experiences, such as a “Seuss Bookville” play space in which families can hang out and read Dr. Seuss books, “Seuss-a-Palooza Story Time,” and much more.
We can’t wait to plan our next cruise experience together with our extended family and friends. Hopefully you’re excited now, too.
If you could cruise anywhere in the world, where would you sail and why?