Family focused activities for a range of ages, superior dining and entertainment, good value and stress-free planning are among the top reasons that cruise lines are in demand for family reunion vacations, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
CLIA says the inclusive nature of a cruise helps keep families on a budget. There are no worries about who is going to pay for dinner or an activity as almost all meals, entertainment and activities are included in the rate. Extras, such as specialty restaurants, can be decided ahead of time. Kids even sail for free on select Crystal Cruises (ages 17 and under) and MSC Cruises (ages 11 and under, plus kids 17 and under sail at a reduced rate.)
For parents who may want a break from their children – and vice versa – most cruise ships offer structured and supervised recreation programs and facilities. Carnival Cruise Lines, in addition to its Seuss at Sea program, has added Camp Ocean, a new themed children’s program on all of its ships. Kids can also run into such “characters” as SpongeBob, SquarePants and other Nickelodeon friends on Norwegian Cruise Line ships and the Marvel characters recently joined their Disney pals on Disney Cruise Line.
Teens have their own cool spaces and activities just for them too, such as mocktail mixology classes, teen yoga, tech classes and teen only night club events on Holland America Line ships. Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess features Remix, a lounge area with foosball and video games, plus an outdoor trendy teen lounge area. Teens can enjoy a little financial independence with MSC Cruises’ Teen Card, a prepaid card designed for small onboard purchases — such as refreshments. On Celebrity Cruises, teens can be film directors with iTake, where they get to take videos from storyboard to filming to editing, with the project ending with a film festival and award ceremony.
Many CLIA lines have adults-only areas where they can enjoy a mini-escape while the kids are at play. The Sanctuary on Princess Cruises is an adults-only outdoor spa-inspired space for relaxing and pampering. The Serenity adults-only retreat on Carnival Cruise Line’s ships offer a tranquil space with whirlpools, lounge chairs and bar service for grown-up relaxation.
Adults should also set aside at least one guilt-free night to enjoy a specialty restaurant that caters to adult tastes. Palo and Remy are both adult-only restaurants on Disney Cruise Line ships, offering Italian and French cuisine respectively, as well as sea views. Even if the families want to have evening meals together, My Family Time Dining on Royal Caribbean International ships has kids complete their dinner within 45 minutes and be escorted to the kids club by youth program counsellors, freeing the adults to enjoy the rest of their meal on their own. During Parents Night Out on Costa Cruises, kids spend the evening at a fun themed dinner, while parents have their own special time alone.
The minimum number of staterooms to benefit from a group rate differs with each cruise line. Many lines offer group discounts and points for onboard group amenities. Usually the bigger the group, the more extras they can enjoy. The Crystal Family Memories Program, for example, starts with benefits, such as a shipboard credit, with only six full-fare, full-payment guests.