Is a cruise something that you would ever think of doing with your family and young children?

We asked one of our contributors, Rachel McAlley to do a little research to find out whether taking a cruise was a viable, practical, fun, entertaining and adventurous option for a family vacay!  Cruises aren’t ever going to be the cheapest family holiday’s to choose, but they can absolutely be one of the most rewarding especially with all the different countries visited from a geographical and historical perspective.  There’s so much to learn while cruising, and looking at the details following, there’s also much to do for the full family onboard a cruise liner. We have outlined three of our favourite cruising options for 2018 and 2019.

Crystal Cruises

Renowned as The World’s Most Awarded Luxury Cruise Line™, Crystal Cruises offers an all- inclusive luxury holiday experience accentuated by exquisite cuisine, including complimentary specialty dining at Prego and Nobu Matshuhisa’s only sea-going restaurants; engaging enrichment at the Creative Learning Institute® and Computer University@Sea®; elegant gaming at the Resorts World at Sea® Casino; lavish production shows and intimate piano bars; and beautifully appointed staterooms and suites, most with private veranda. 

Crystal’s enduring legacy of excellence began with Crystal Cruises and the ships that set a new standard of luxury in the cruise industry. Since Crystal Harmony’s maiden voyage in 1990, it has been the Crystal Cruises credo to continue to best itself with exceeding levels of service, space, quality and choices aboard its ocean ships. Sailing innovative global itineraries to virtually every corner of the earth, today, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity offer travellers unforgettable holiday experiences highlighted by Crystal’s unique brand of personal touches and attention to detail.

Crystal Cruises’ extraordinary commitment to excellence and quality of experience applies to guests of all ages.  Space dedicated to children is rare on luxury ships, yet Crystal has designed its ships to accommodate multiple generations.  Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity offer spacious staterooms in a range of categories as well as suites, third berths and connecting staterooms, child-friendly cuisine, highly acclaimed children’s programmes on select sailings with activities for children aged 3-17 and dedicated “play” rooms for kids (Fantasia) and teens (Waves).  During holiday cruises, summer sailings and other selected itineraries; additional children’s activities are offered under the supervision of experienced Junior Activities Directors, with expanded hours and programming.  For parents longing for some time on their own, all vessels offer in-stateroom babysitting.

 Facilities

Many facilities on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity were designed with young guests in mind.  Fantasia has supervised activities, tables and chairs for board games, arts and crafts, giant padded cubes and beanbags, puzzles and large-screen televisions with super comfy seating.  Teenagers enjoy the Waves Sony PlayStation® 2, Nintendo Wii™, Xbox 360TM individual gaming stations and Kinect kiosks (depending on ship).  Crystal Symphony’s facilities were completely redesigned in 2012, offering a trendy urban loft/modern rec room look that kids can “own”, be it curling up alone with a book or piling on the couch with new friends for a movie night.  The Library offers a selection of children’s books and videos for in-room viewing; children can also see recently released films in The Hollywood Theatre or at special kids-only gatherings elsewhere on board.

Activities

Crystal Cruises offers junior cruises a broad choice of organised activities and entertainment options.  A daily Surf Runner newsletter provides details on the following day’s activity schedule, tailored by age group, available on cruises that typically have more young travellers (summer cruises, shorter itineraries and holiday sailings).  Crystal’s exclusive Magic Castle at Sea offers magic classes and shows just for junior cruisers on select cruises.

Dining

Crystal’s executive chefs and other culinary staff can prepare custom dishes and items comparable to those found on shoreside kids’ menus.  Baby food, high chairs and booster seats are available on request.  In addition to meals in the Crystal Dining Room and specialty restaurants, the Trident Grill & Ice Cream Bar serves complimentary hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and sandwiches as well as ice cream, non-fat yoghurt and cookies throughout the afternoon.

Babysitting Services

All vessels offer in-stateroom babysitting.  Arrangements can easily be made by contacting the concierge at least 24 hours in advance.  To satisfy safety concerns, the maximum number of children/babies watched by one babysitter is three.  Fees are $10 per hour for one child, $15 per hour for two children and $20 per hour for three children.  As of 2014, late-night supervised group activities are available between 10pm and midnight, with fees of $7.50 for one child, $10 for two children and $12.50 for three children.

Family Savings

Children aged 11 and younger occupying the third berth pay 50% of the minimum fare when accompanied by two full-fare paying adults.  On select sailings throughout the year, the line sets special promotions in which children can sail free when sharing a room with two adults.  Additionally, Crystal’s Family Memories promotion, also offered on select sailings, extends savings and special perks for large families and groups of all ages travelling together.

For more info contact 020 7399 7601 or visit www.crystalcruises.co.uk.

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line is “The World’s Most Popular Cruise Line®” with 25 ships operating three- to 16-day voyages to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, Bermuda, Europe, Cuba, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Two 133,500-ton Vista class ships are currently scheduled for delivery – Carnival Horizon in 2018 and Carnival Panorama in 2019. Additionally, two new 180,000-ton ships are scheduled to enter service in 2020 and 2022.

The family cruise market is the fastest growing at sea and Carnival Cruise Line – the global leader in family cruising – is expected to host more than 800,000 children onboard its ships this year. Carnival Cruise Line takes ‘fun’ very seriously and the Fun Ships’ numerous kid-friendly amenities, enthusiastic youth counsellors and spacious state-of-the-art play areas provide the ultimate family holiday. Carnival, which carries more kids than any other cruise line, offers the cruise industry’s top-rated children’s programmes — Camp Carnival, for kids ages 2 to 11, Circle “C,” catering to the 12- to 14-year-old set, and Club O2, geared toward 15- to 17-year-olds – with supervised activities and dedicated staff for each group. In addition to a full schedule of fun, morning-til-night activities, Camp Carnival features such amenities as indoor play areas stocked with a variety of games and toys.  Arts and crafts centres, “activity walls”, indoor climbing mazes and computer labs are also featured on many vessels, while onboard programming emphasizing reading, art, music, geography and physical fitness is available fleet wide.

Carnival Cruise Line also offers Camp Ocean, an exciting, new marine-themed children’s programme. The programme, across all ships in the fleet, immerses children ages 2-11 in the wonders of the sea through fun, engaging and educational experiences.  More than 200 ocean-inspired activities range from educational games such as Sea Creature Discovery, Marine Life Trivia, Under the Sea Mad Libs and Ocean Artifacts Memory Tray to creative arts opportunities such as Design Your Own Aquarium, Make Your Own Sailboat, Sea Salt Art, and Create a Penguin from Oreos. Camp Ocean welcomes youngsters in with light blue and white underwater coloured spaces and friendly, experienced staff.  Three age-related categories each have their own identity: children ages 2-5 are “Penguins,” those aged 6-8 are “Sting Rays” and 9-11 year olds called “Sharks.” Distinctive areas and activities have been custom-created for each of the age designations – from miniature play igloos for the Penguins to interactive gaming stations for the Sharks. On selected ships, a new purpose-built Camp Ocean play area includes Party Reef, a common shared space that brings each of the groups together, as well as Creative Cove, a breakout room for arts and crafts activities. In developing the new Camp Ocean programme, the company convened a Carnival Play Panel comprised of experts in child education, media and play to develop and curate the more than 200 new activities to resonate with today’s children and to continually review and guide updates to the children’s programming.

When it comes to dining, young cruisers get the full “Fun Ship” treatment, with expanded children’s menus offering a variety of kids’ favourites, as well as a “daily junior special” promising something new and different each day.  Carnival’s poolside restaurants house a 24-hour pizzeria, a grille area serving hamburgers and hot dogs and a complimentary soft ice cream and frozen yogurt station. Also offered is Carnival’s “Bottomless Bubbles” programme, which, for a one-time fee, provides unlimited soft drink purchases throughout the cruise for guests under age 18.  Carnival also features some of the largest staterooms in contemporary cruising with a wide range of accommodation categories. Many staterooms are inter-connecting, ideal for large families or family gatherings.

Other family-friendly offerings include Build-A-Bear Workshop At Sea which provides children with an opportunity to make their own cuddly bear that can be customised with a variety of outfits and accessories;  The Seuss at Sea programme includes activities such as a Green Eggs and Ham character breakfast, a Seuss-a-palooza character parade and a Seuss-a-palooza story time event once every cruise; Hasbro The Game Show; the IMAX Theatre; Dive-In Movies; the Cherry-On-Top Ice Cream Bar; Lip Sync Battle, Shows & Comedy brunch for families; SportSquare featuring football courts; SkyRide, SkyCourse, Mini-Golf and ClubHouse; bowling and ZSpa – a spa for teens.

Launching this spring, the 133,500-ton Carnival Horizon will offer a wide range of onboard innovations, including a groundbreaking bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called SkyRide, an IMAX Theatre and a delicious array of dining choices, including the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Bonsai Sushi, the Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant and Ji Ji Asian Kitchen.  Carnival Horizon, will be the first ship in the Carnival fleet to feature Dr. Seuss WaterWorks, a vibrant water park inspired by the whimsical world and words of the legendary children’s author. Located on Deck 12, Carnival Horizon’s Dr Seuss WaterWorks will offer two distinctly different slides: The Cat in the Hat slide will feature an enclosed raft slide offering more than 450 feet of heart-racing twists and turns. The entrance resembles The Cat’s famous red and white hat with the distinctive colour pattern carried throughout the slide in alternating translucent and opaque sections. There is also the Fun Things slide, an enclosed body slide with whimsical polka dots and special lighting effects and named after the mischievous duo Thing 1 and Thing 2 and encompassing 213 feet. Dr. Seuss WaterWorks will also include a 150-gallon tipping bucket patterned after The Cat’s hat, along with a kiddie splash zone with dozens of water spray toys. A wide range of accommodations will also be offered, including extra-roomy staterooms in Family Harbor, and tropical-inspired Havana staterooms and suites with exclusive daytime access to a Cuban-themed bar and pool.  From 22nd September 2018, Carnival Horizon will offer a year-round schedule of six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises out of Miami.

For more information contact your travel agent, call 0808 234 0680 or visit www.carnival.com.

Paul Gauguin Cruises

Designed to glide through the shallow seas of the South Pacific, the Paul Gauguin is a small-ship cruisers dream. She delivers travellers to intimate ports inaccessible to larger cruise ships, all the while providing an onboard experience that is nothing short of luxurious. Guest enjoy spacious suites and staterooms (more than 70% with private balconies), an onboard watersports marina, three dining venues, an extensive spa and five star service. Life onboard also reflects the beauty and rich cultural heritage of the islands she calls upon with a warm, friendly feel, informal setting and even a beloved troupe of Gauguines and Gauguins – local Tahitians who serve as cruise staff, entertainers and storytellers.

Paul Gauguin Cruises offers a new way for families to explore this breathtaking part of the world together through a joint programme with the Wildlife Conservation Society. During the summer months and over Christmas, the Stewards of Nature programme is offered and invites guests to discover and value nature through hands-on, interactive learning for children and teens aged 7-17, as well as family members. Each day, there is a combination of naturalist-led island and/or beach excursions, science activities, crafts, games and other adventures. Depending on their itinerary, children might learn about underwater life during a snorkelling excursion, observe the ocean or the stars through binoculars on an onboard telescope, learn about different kinds of marine life and their habitats, reinforce their discoveries by playing Ocean Trivia or Oceanopoly, go on a dolphin watching expedition, swim with sharks and rays, play beach games and race hermit crabs, enjoy a dance performance or a movie and a pizza party onboard, and learn what it means to be a Steward of Nature.

For more information contact 020 7399 7691 or visit www.pgcruises.com.