Thanks for posting and I'm sure you'll have a great time on your family's cruise vacation. Here are a few tips for you on cruising with kids:
Involve the kids in choosing shore excursion activities. Making all family members part the vacation planning process helps cruise vacations go well and helps kids to get more out of the experience. Talk about what you're going to do on your cruise in advance and if there are any "must-do" shore excursions, book them early.
Set the rules in advance. For the best family cruising experience, establish some rules in advance and be prepared to enforce them. Let your kids know when you expect to see them at meals, discuss activities in which you expect them to participate, outline your budget including any restrictions on cell phone and Internet usage, set a firm evening curfew, and ask them to let you know where they are while onboard. Many parents use an in-cabin dry erase board or a message center on the cabin door to communicate with their kids on the ship. Review cruise line rules or codes of conduct with your kids and make sure they’re being observed. Since older kids and young adults have a lot of freedom the ship, it’s also important to discuss safety as well.
Pack wisely. Cruise ship staterooms are relatively small, so it’s important to pack carefully. Do pack with your children and make sure they have what’s needed. Take a few additional items in your carry-on luggage along with medicines and travel documents, such as a change of clothes and bathing suit in case luggage is lost and plenty of travel games and snacks for the trip. Monitor the weather for your embarkation port and ports of call before packing and plan accordingly. Weather.com is a good source. The weather in Mexico could be warm and sunny during December, but it can also be cooler and rainy. If you enter your ports of call on Weather.com, it can give you the forecast for up to 10 days in advance.
Bring a power strip. Many staterooms have only one or two outlets, which are never enough for all the laptops, camera battery chargers, cell phones and other tech equipment families bring.
Enroll in kids & teens programs on the first day. Major cruise lines have excellent programs for kids of all ages. For the best possible experience, make sure that they participate in the first session of their youth program activities. Friendships and cliques form quickly, especially on short cruises. The kids will get involved in events and bond with the youth coordinators and cruisers their own age.
Set a comfortable pace. Keep in mind each family member’s individual preferences for waking hours, activity schedules, dress, dining options, nightlife, and sleep needs - then plan accordingly. Be flexible and do as much or as little as your kids can handle. Respect your differences and be willing to bend the rules a bit if necessary. Letting your teen sleep in for an extra hour could make all the difference in having a great time on your family cruise.
Manage Internet and phone usage. Families often have Internet issues while cruising, particularly those with teens. To avoid costly shipboard Internet charges, ask ship crew members about the best plans and Internet cafes in each port of call. Before going on your cruise, also check with your cellular service provider to find out what the voice and data charges will be in each of your port destinations and discuss using ship's onboard cellular service at sea. Then plan accordingly.
Allow for plenty of time together and apart. Great family cruises do not always necessitate spending every waking hour together. Everyone needs a break sometimes, including kids and teens. Be honest with yourselves about your needs for time alone and build it into your cruise plan. Having plenty of "me time" and "we time" often makes for the best family cruise vacation.
Hope this is helpful and have a great cruise!
All the best,
Nancy Schretter, Cruises Editor