Cruise vacations offer great value for groups wanting to travel together. For family get-togethers with members of all ages, a cruise can offer an array of options that will keep everyone entertained at sea and in port.
Multigenerational cruising has never been more popular, as groups flock to cruise ships of all sizes to celebrate birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, retirements — or just to be together during a family vacation.
Because cruising offers family-focused activities for a range of ages with a wide variety of dining and entertainment options as well as stress-free planning and a good return for your vacation dollars, there are several reasons to choose a cruise for your next family reunion.
Here are eight key things to keep in mind when planning a multigenerational family reunion.
Cruising is a good value
1The inclusive nature of a cruise helps keep families on a budget. There are no worries about who is going to pay for this dinner or that activity, given that almost all meals, entertainment and activities are included in the basic fare. Extras, such as specialty restaurants, can be decided ahead of time. Kids even sail for free on select Crystal Cruises (ages 17 and under) and MSC Cruises (ages 11 and under, while kids 17 and under sail at a reduced rate) and Costa Cruises (at certain times of year).
Keeping the kids happy
2For parents who may want a break from their children (and vice versa), most cruise ships offer structured and supervised recreation programs and facilities. Carnival Cruise Line, in addition to its Seuss at Sea program, has added Camp Ocean, a themed children’s program on all of its ships. Kids can also run into familiar cartoon characters on Norwegian Cruise Line ships, and the Marvel characters have joined their Disney pals on Disney Cruise Line.
Teens have their own cool spaces and activities just for them, too, such as mocktail mixology classes, teen yoga, tech classes and teen-only night club events on Holland America Line ships. Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess features Remix, a lounge area with Foosball and video games, plus an outdoor trendy teen lounge area. Teens can enjoy a little financial independence with MSC Cruises’ Teen Card, a prepaid card designed for small onboard purchases such as refreshments. On Celebrity Cruises, teens can be film directors with iTake, a program that allows them to take videos from storyboard to filming to editing before the project ends with a film festival and award ceremony.
3Many cruise ships that cater to passengers of all ages have a designated adults-only area. The Sanctuary on Princess Cruises is an adults-only, outdoor spa-inspired space for relaxing and pampering. The adults-only Serenity retreat on Carnival Cruise Line’s ships offer a tranquil space with whirlpools, lounge chairs and bar service for grown-up relaxation. In the Solarium on Royal Caribbean, you can hang out in a quiet, glass-canopied retreat. On Royal's large new ships — Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas — the two-deck, semi-enclosed space at the front of the ship is outfitted with a pool and spectacular whirlpools.
Adults also should set aside at least one guilt-free night to enjoy a specialty restaurant that caters to adult tastes. Palo and Remy are both adult-only restaurants, featuring Italian and French cuisine respectively, as well as sea views, on Disney Cruise Line ships.
And even if the families want to have evening meals together, My Family Time Dining on Royal Caribbean ships encourages kids to complete their dinner within 45 minutes before being escorted to the kids club by youth program counselors, freeing the adults to enjoy the rest of their meal on their own. During Parents Night Out on Costa Cruises, kids spend the evening at a fun themed dinner, while parents have their own special time alone.
The more the merrier
4Taking out group space is a great way to get extra perks on the ships. Although the minimum number of staterooms to benefit from a group rate differs with each cruise line, make sure to ask about group discounts and points for onboard group amenities. Usually the bigger the group, the more extras they can enjoy. The Crystal Family Memories Program, for example, starts with benefits, such as a shipboard credit, with only six full-fare, full-payment guests.
If your group is large enough, it’s possible to charter an entire ship for a customized cruise on lines like SeaDream Yacht Club and Paul Gauguin Cruises. Plus, cruise lines are offering more choice in staterooms to accommodate families. On select MSC Cruises ships, parents can have their own private stateroom with family accommodations in an adjacent stateroom with a connecting door. Norwegian Cruise Line features a number of family staterooms with more space and privacy for the parents and the kids.
Choose to cruise close to home
5Cruise lines leave from numerous ports throughout the U.S., such as New York City, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New Orleans, Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles, Galveston, Texas and more. Families can save time and money on air fare and drive to their closest home embarkation and disembarkation port.
6Families come with people who have a wide range of tastes, and a cruise lets everyone find their own fun and then share it later. Part of that fun is new experiences. Adrenaline seekers will get their rush rock climbing or ziplining on many of the ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet or by walking the plank that extends eight feet over the side of Norwegian Cruise Lines’ newest ships, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 boasts a planetarium for out-of-this-world exploration. And foodies can enjoy a wine or culinary class in Holland America Line’s Culinary Arts Center or Oceania Cruises’ Bon Appétit Cooking School, where there are also classes for young aspiring chefs.
7Family members should do what interests them, but remember: You're on vacation to bond and spend time together. It's a good idea to make reservations for specialty restaurants right after you book, since they fill up fast. Same for some stage productions. For larger groups, a pre-dinner reception in one of the ship’s bars can be arranged. Many cruise lines offer Broadway-caliber entertainment and big shows, and most of them are kid-friendly such as Disney Cruise Line’s "Aladdin" and Royal Caribbean’s "Hairspray."
While in port, groups can explore together on family-friendly shore excursions. Paul Gauguin Cruises encourages parents to join their children on eco-excursions to the natural wonders of French Polynesia as part of the line’s youth program, created by explorer and environmentalist Jean Michel Cousteau and his Oceans Future Society. Celebrity Cruises offers Customized Shore Excursions, so families can truly have alone time together. Tauck and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection offer specific European river cruise departures designed especially for families, with shore excursions tailored for shared adventures.
Work with a qualified travel expert
8Travel agents are the best resource for ship, itinerary selection and cruise planning based on their industry training and experience. Don't have one? Contact Cruiseable to be put in touch with a travel advisor who can help you find a cruise for your travel style.