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Friday, January 04, 2008

Questions to Ask When Planning a Family Cruise With Your Children

Questions to Ask When Planning a Family Cruise With Your Children

Cruises are perfect for multi-generational family vacations! Kids seem to love cruises, and many cruise lines have recognized the previously untapped market for families with children. Since cruises offer something for all ages, families can have fun together or have fun with others of their peer group, all in one vacation spot. In addition, since almost all of the major costs of a cruise are included in the base price, it makes budgeting for a family easier. Your teenagers (or teen wanna-bes) can scan the menu looking for "the most expensive items" and be disappointed. There are no prices! They can eat what they want (and as much as they want) without a corresponding shrinkage of your wallet. Cruises are like a big "all-inclusive resort", except they move across the water, providing new vistas each day for the entire family.

Finding a cruise for adults is difficult enough, but finding a good match in a cruise for adults and children or teens involves some research and hard work.

Most cruise lines allow children on board, but not all design activities specifically for kids. Following are some basic questions you should ask your travel agent and/or find out from the cruise line when selecting a cruise for a family with children.

Be sure to check with your travel agent before booking to get the specifics on each cruise ship. Some ships have different age categories, and others don't offer their kids programs year-round.

Basics
What are the age restrictions for the cruise line?
Do my children's ages qualify them for a discount?
Does the Web site and/or brochure of the cruise line feature children in the pictures? (If not, it's probably not designed for kids.)
Are the special activities and child care/teen center available at the time we wish to cruise?
Will my children find the ports of call interesting? If not, is there enough to keep them happy on the ship?
Are discounts available for a 3rd and/or 4th person in our cabin?
If there a special place or playroom dedicated for children?
For teens? CabinsAre cribs and/or day beds or cots available to put in our room? If so, is there a rental fee? Are adjoining cabins available?
(If you have a BIG or extended family)How big are the cabins?
Are guardrails available for bunk beds?

Dining

Does the menu offer food my children will eat?
If not, are pizza and burgers and hot dogs and such available?
Is there a children's menu available for each meal?
Is early seating available or does the ship have "open" seating so that we can eat at a time close to when the children normally dine?

Activities

What activities are planned for children?Is there a children's-only pool available on the ship?
Will there be special movies or live entertainment that children will enjoy?
Are there any shore excursions scheduled that are geared toward children?
Is there a babysitting service available?
What are the hours and costs for the babysitting service?
Child Care Center or Teen Center
What are the requirements for placing a child in the center such as age, vaccinations, or potty training?
How are the children's areas supervised?
Is the teen center supervised?
What are the hours, costs, and restrictions on the centers?
What security methods are used when a child is picked up from the center?
What is the ratio of children to adult staff in the children's center?
How are the staff trained in the children's center?
Do they know how to perform CPR on children and infants?
Are the staff working in the children's center insured?


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