Now that you feel confident you could cruise with your sanity in tact, let me guess… you think you can’t go because the kids will miss school. But will they really? We have been known to book a Friday through Monday cruise. We drop the kids off at school Friday morning, which marks them as present (not absent). Dad and I get the car loaded, handle last minute preparations, then pick them up around lunchtime with plenty of time to make it to the port. You can usually be off the boat by 9 am on the last day of your cruise. We drive straight from the port to the school on Monday morning, so they are in class by 11:00 and marked as tardy (again, not absent). 4 day vacation – zero days missed! Magic! We always let the teachers know what we are up to and, if they will truly miss full days of class for a longer sailing, we make sure to bring along any work they will miss and promise to have them journal their many educational experiences. An exotic souvenir for the teacher never hurts, either. Just sayin’.
Here’s a tip – while you can book 4 or more people to a stateroom, the per-person rates are based on double occupancy. Translation = once you have paid for 2 people to stay in the room, the 3rd and 4th passengers are the same price per head. As a result, you may be able to book the same 4 people into two adjoining rooms for the same price! We just discovered this on our last cruise, and I have vowed to never share a room with my children again. Two showers, no bunk beds, room to unpack, and – more importantly – a way to shut them out and get some private time at sea with my man! After your first sailing with a given cruise line, you will receive plenty of notice about return passenger rates. These specials are sometimes awarded at random, with each passenger having their own “frequent floater” account. Check with your travel agent – or play with the reservation online – to see if changing the person listed first on the reservation results in unexpected savings!
Generally speaking, the cruise is more about the ship than about the ports of call. Where you stop won’t be nearly as memorable as how you get there. We prefer the private islands (most major cruise lines have one), as we can avoid the locals pressuring us to buy their wares and can use our onboard room key/signing card for purchases on the island. When visiting a private island, don’t bother booking an excursion. There will be plenty of fun ashore without the need to shell out additional funds. When visiting other, more public ports of call, I recommend booking your excursions through your cruise line. While booking privately through another source may be cheaper, security can become a concern in foreign locales, even if there was no trouble afoot at the time of booking. I challenge you to consider staying onboard for at least one port of call. When everyone disembarks to get their hair braided, there’s no line at the waterslide! Sometimes we go ashore just long enough to buy a “we were here” trinket and get our passports stamped.
Speaking of passports, don’t put off cruising just because the kiddos don’t have one. They are not required for many closed-circuit cruises departing from and returning to Canaveral. (It goes without saying that you need to verify this for your specific sailing, don’t take my word for it!) Having said that, I do recommend having one for all passengers. This is of primary importance in the unlikely event you ever need to fly home from another country in an emergency. Go ahead and order passports for the family today, even if you don’t see a trip in your immediate future. Never hurts to have them around; and it’s one less thing to worry about when the travel bug bites!
Once the sail date is set, it’s time to start thinking ahead to the realities of life at sea. Seasickness can be a serious problem on a cruise. It will ruin your fun so fast your head (and the whole room) will spin. Children are less likely to be affected than adults, but it’s miserable for all when it hits. You want to attack BEFORE it does. Common options include:
- Sea Bands – elastic wrist bands that leverage pressure points);
- Over the counter medication – while most think of Dramamine and Bonine, our pediatrician told us to just use Benadryl
- Prescription patches – they make you very thirsty but, hello! You are going to have a fruity umbrella drink in your hand the whole time, so bottoms up!
On our last cruise, however, I used ginger essential oil. I rubbed it on our feet and behind our ears, and also diffused it in the room while we slept. I never took any other medicine the whole time and never got seasick. To each their own, but please don’t get onboard thinking you can just tough it out. Be prepared, or it’s going to be a lousy vacation.
Hey, did you hear that?! You’re going on vacation!!! I have booked past cruises through Fairytale Journeys by Mindy (a former Orlando mom) and have been impressed by the rates and rooms she’s been able to secure for us. I am not receiving any compensation for the recommendation, but I suggest you visit her website for more details. She’s a mom who has cruised and traveled the world (literally) with her kids in tow. No call center guy is going to give you the info she can! Her services are free, and although her site is Disney-centric, she can handle any cruise line.
Join us, tickets in hand, for the next two parts of this series. I’ll give you the inside scoop on food & fun on board, plus a little encouragement to be weird. You don’t want to miss it.