Going on a cruise with our family had been high on the priority list for sometime, especially having heard rave reviews from friends and family about their cruise experiences. After having experienced a few cruises I guess you can say that we totally drank the cruise ship kool aid. Having traveled all over the world with young children, we have experienced our fair share of nightmares when traveling, but my kids are always asking when we can take another cruise! With summer in full gear and many of you possibly debating a cruise vacation I wanted to share our personal experience and tips when taking this a special sea excursion.
On previous vacations, our children have tried the kids clubs offered by the resorts but tended to spend limited time there. They always seem to become uninterested by the limited activities, or they just have wanted to spend more time with Jason and I (go figure!). Well, that was the complete opposite on cruises. The girls love cruise ship kids clubs so much they would beg us to let them stay for longer when we would go to pick them up. Knowing our children are having a blast while in the care of certified caregivers allows such peace of mind during what is also suppose to be a relaxing time for us parents. It’s not often that Jason and I can enjoy an adult beverage or some alone time, and kids clubs help give us that much needed time together.
Often at the time of booking, cruises will offer the option to select your dinner hours. For us, family time and hang out time is important at the end of the day, so we usually opt for the earlier slot. Those guests who choose later dinner seatings have the option to see the on-board shows and performances prior to their meal, to tailor to their schedule. There are multiple restaurant options on board, which we also preselected, so there is one less thing to worry about while on vacation. Initially, the idea of being obligated to a dinner appointment worried me, but if our lazy vacation schedule set in, we always have the option to eat in the buffet-style restaurant with much more flexible hours and seating plans.
Here are some tips for saving money while cruising:
- When booking travel, good deals and availability can book up quickly, especially with cruises, so try to book your vacation one year in advance. Some cruise services, like Disney, offer interest free (!) payment plans for families to contribute to their travel costs.
- Try a travel agent! If you are new to family cruises or are planning a cruise for a large group, a travel agent may make it easier to get group rates and other special discounts. Find one at The American Society of Travel Associates.
- Your cruise doesn’t need to last a full week. Many offer four and five day cruises!
- Book during the off season months like January, early February, May, late August, September, October, and the portions of November and December that do not fall within holiday weeks, for some significantly lower fares; just do some research on destinations before booking. For instance, the Caribbean is usually good year round, but keep in mind the rainy season between May and December. Alaska is an amazing destination, but cruises usually only run between May and September. When cruising Europe, try to book during spring or fall, to take advantage of the best weather, and fewer people.
- Pick and choose your packages carefully. You can save a lot of money and still have a good a time, if you skip things like the drink package, or book excursions once you arrive at destinations, rather than in advance on board the ship. This is a big one for me, because you may have a different point of view of a port once you have your boots on the ground. On one cruise years ago, we signed up for lunch at an aquarium, only to be brought to a bar with a big fish tank. Do your homework first!
- Pay close attention to the type of room you book! Interior rooms are significantly less expensive than balcony rooms.
- Be mindful of your port. Flying to Ft. Lauderdale vs. Miami can save hundreds of dollars in airfare.
Happy travels and be sure to pick up a copy of Woman’s Day Magazine to see more Summer Adventures for less!