An update: IHG deal is over. Before I get to my second part of my “cruise for families” pitch, I wanted to let you know about a promotion. IHG will be having a flash sale on some hotels Monday at 10 am, with award prices being deeply discounted. LINK
In my last post I mentioned some huge advantages to cruising, when it comes to kids. But alas, its not all rosy. As with everything, there are pros and cons to consider.
There are downsides to cruising as well, when it comes to family. The main one: very small rooms, just tiny sometimes. Unlike condos, where you usually have a separate bedroom, you are all packed in a room, a size of a closet.
That’s where it pays to look up square footage before booking. In out experience Carnival and Holland America have some of the biggest cabins. Also, you have a choice on which type to pick: inside, outside or balcony.
Before we had kids, we usually got the cheapest room, normally inside category. With kids, I would recommend to at least consider a balcony, if you budget permits. That is because you can sit there, when the kid is taking a nap and not go stir crazy from boredom.
Also, cruise lines usually provide cots, but I would not count on it. I recommend, you bring your own. We liked using Baby Bjorn travel crib, since it was easy to unfold and relatively compact. It is somewhat expensive at 239 dollars, but worth it, especially if you plan to have more than one child.
I also recommend you bring a sound machine, like Marsona, to drown out the noise. You hear a lot of slamming doors in the hallway at all hours of the night. Not fun, when you have kids, trying to sleep. Also, don’t forget their favorite blanket and toy to make the transition smooth,or should I say smoother.
Another concern is laundry. With small kids it can really present a challenge. Many ships have launderette room on certain floors. On others you have an option to pay to do it, which can get expensive. I suggest, you research it ahead of time before booking a specific ship.
I also strongly recommend you bring a compact, collapsible stroller, if you have small kids. Its nice to take them on a deck or just wonder around the ship to keep them entertained. I really like The First Years Ignite stroller, that runs 60 dollars and is very smooth and easy to maneuver. I have tested many models, and for the money that one is tough to beat.
Usually Disney, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCl are considered the most family friendly cruise lines. But we went on Holland America and found it to be great, even with kids. Actually it’s our favorite cruise line, because its full of older people. I didn’t say old! They usually don’t create a lot of noise and go to sleep early. We are not into the cool scene, so it fits us just fine.
Be warned, if your kid is not potty trained, they will not be able to use the pools. Swim diapers are not allowed. Some of the newer ships do have specific areas , where small kids can splash in the water, so once again check on it before making a reservation. For more tips check out Cruisesforfamilies
Now as far as booking the cruise. There are a couple of obvious sites, like Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity. You can also check more specialized sites, like Cruise.com. At any rate, I recommend you check Travelzoo for latest deals, before you do any booking. Some cruise lines let you book a 3rd and 4th passenger at a reduced rate.
NCL has been running a promotion last few years, where kids cruise free, while staying in parents’ cabin. They usually have this special for one week around March or April, so if you are interested in that particular line, it may pay to wait and see if that promotion returns.
There is also a website I don’t see mentioned very often. But I highly recommend you give it a shot. It’s called Cruisecompete What is unique about it, is that you get offers from different cruise agencies. Very often you will find the lowest price there.
You can also book through Discover card and their partner agency and get 5 percent back on cruise fare (though port charges don’t count). It is also a good option, but you might do a bit better with Cruisecompete. Besides, with the last one you can use any card. That can come in handy for minimum spending requirements.
As far as the best card bonuses to get for cruises, Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases card is a very good fit. That’s because you can redeem 40000 points for 400 dollars off your cruise fare or even tips charged, while on the ship. And you get a 10 percent rebate on points. A husband and a wife can each get one , and will have 880 dollars to use for travel expenses. That can potentially pay for a 3 night cruise in the off-season for the whole family!
Another decent choice is Chase Sapphire Preferred with 40000 Ultimate Rewards sign-up bonus. It would be good for 500 dollars off a cruise fare, though you have to book through their agency. I realize its considered travesty to use these points in such a manner, but the choice is yours. They are your points!
Read my post HERE for more. I got comments on it from, in the order of importance: Randy Petersen, Gary Leff and Matt from Saverocity. I may as well shut this blog down now, it can only go downhill from here!
You may not know who any of those people are and that is a good thing. It means you are not addicted to this hobby YET. Anyway, if I had to pick just one card to apply for, I would go with Arrival, since its a limited time offer. Both cards pay me commission, in case you are wondering, which is a very fortunate coincidence!
Usually you don’t need a passport, as long as the cruise is a closed loop one. That means leaving and coming back to the same US port. But I still recommend you get a passport for everyone in the family. I know that can add up for a family of four. But something could happen and you could be stranded in a foreign country. How would you fly back home? Usually kids passport is good for 5 years, so you will get some good mileage out if it, literally.
Something else I strongly recommend for cruise or any trip, is travel insurance. Its important for single travelers, but essential for families. There are all kinds of good reasons for that. Which is why I decided to do a separate post on it , coming out next Thursday (to a theater near you) . So I guess you can say it’s really a 3 part post now! Yikes.
We are very fortunate to live in Florida, the hub of cruising, so there is no need to fly. But hopefully some of you consider using your miles for award tickets and give cruising a shot. It really is a blast with or without kids!
If you liked my post, consider subscribing to my blog and follow me on Twitter, by clicking HERE I will try to stick to a schedule of publishing them on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in the late afternoon. There may be an extra post here and there, depending on current news.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.