Cruising with kids isn't as crazy as it sounds, writes Tiana Templeman
Times are changing when it comes to luxury cruising, with many high-end lines realising adults don't automatically lose their love of luxurious holidays when they have children. While some companies, such as Viking Cruises, continue to fill an important gap in the market by remaining child-free, others now welcome parents and grandparents travelling with kids with open arms.
Many luxury cruise ships offer excellent and extensive children's programmes. This is a major advantage of luxury cruising with children and there is less chance your own holiday will be spoiled by hordes of rowdy kids, even during busy school holiday periods.
There is no need to pay a fortune to bring your children on a luxury cruise either. Discounted (or free) children's fares are frequently available and savings can be significant. For example, Crystal Cruises has a promotion which offers complimentary third berths on select voyages for children when they sail in the same stateroom with two full-fare adults. Luxury expedition line Pandaw ups the ante with one or two children between the ages of 5 and 18 travelling for free in their own cabin at no extra cost.
When it comes to choosing a luxury family cruise, some destinations are better than others. Look for itineraries that feature port stops and family-friendly activities such as bushwalking, cultural shows and wildlife sightings. Tropical destinations offering fun in the sun are great for kids of all ages.
Wherever you decide to cruise, enjoying some family-friendly fun on port days is an ideal way for children to let off steam. Making your own arrangements generally works better than joining ship shore excursions as these tend to be aimed at older adults, who move at a slower pace.
Parents considering a voyage on a luxury line often worry about the high-end dining arrangements on board but there is no need for concern. Some lines offer a children's teatime so parents can dine together in the formal dining room without toddlers in tow. Cunard is well suited to those travelling with a baby as there is a complimentary night nursery for little ones aged 6 months and above.
If your kids don't enjoy extended multi-course dinners, it is still possible to enjoy the luxurious main dining room as a family. Children's meals can be served first so youngsters can leave the table quickly and join their friends at the kids' club. When they have gone, waiters will slow down the service so you can enjoy the rest of your meal at leisure. Signature restaurants such as teppanyaki, which offer delicious food and a sense of theatre, are also a hit with children.
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While youngsters are generally made welcome on high-end lines, especially by passengers who have children and grandchildren of their own, you may come across the occasional grump who believes luxury ships are no place for children. If so, it's usually easier to agree to disagree than argue about it. With any luck, your well-behaved kids and other more welcoming passengers will change their minds by the end of your cruise.