By Steven W., our family blogger
Cruising can be an ideal way to travel with young children due to the many on-ship activities and programs for your children and the convenience of your cabin and the dining room when returning from a day-long excursion.
We enjoyed a 15-day Hawaiian cruise aboard the Diamond Princess last November with our one-year-old and four-year-old. Here are some unique travel tips we learned that other families may find useful.
1. Get online early.
On the first day that online access is available for your cruise, sign up for the children’s program (“Princess Pelicans” for our cruise line).
Reserve shore excursions, and make spa appointments. If you wait just a day or two later, the prime times will be booked already.
2. Create a master calendar.
Write down dinner reservations, shore arrival/departure times, spa appointments, excursion info, and any special event times you don’t want to miss. There is so much to see and do during the cruise that a master calendar really helps you get the most out of your vacation.
3. Pack a wristwatch for each adult.
You may think that you won’t need to know what time it is during your cruise, but you will. There are few, if any, clocks on board, not even in your cabin. We had to turn on the television to see the time.
Cell phones could be useful, but they should be off.
A waterproof watch is useful both for the spa and the beach.
4. Pose for pictures every night before or after dinner.
Unlike most professional photographers, there is no sitting fee charged for the photographers aboard the ship (depends on the cruise line). So gather up your family and pose for pictures every night before or after dinner. You won’t have to pay or buy anything, and who knows, one of the photos may turn out great!
Bring your own USB memory key to get digital copies of your photos. And wait until the end of the cruise, then buy several photos in a package deal.
5. Eat dinner at the same table every night.
This may sound boring, but if you want to enjoy your dinner, it is best to find a good waitstaff, and then stick with them for the duration of the cruise.
Your child’s needs (high chair, milk before you order, extra alphabet soup) will be met quickly as the waitstaff gets to know your family, leaving you with more time to relax and enjoy your meal.
One more tip: pack a goodie bag of inexpensive little toys for each child for each night in the dining room. This will keep the kids entertained while waiting for the adults to order and the food to arrive.
6. Rent a mini-van (with a car seat) for excursions.
On most, if not all, of the Hawaiian islands, I would recommend renting a minivan. We did this at Hilo and Kauai, and it worked out great. You can go at your own pace, see the sights you want to, and stop whenever the kids need a meal break or potty stop.
Every island stop had rental car shuttles to take you to the airport to get your vehicle. Plan on spending an hour to get the car and an hour to return the car, reducing your time by two hours. But it is well worth it for the flexibility it gives your family, and much less expensive than the organized excursions.
7. Use the porter.
When traveling with kids, a porter is a necessity, not a luxury. Don’t try to save $20 by unloading and loading your luggage yourself. They help with luggage during arrival and departure.
Tip generously upon arrival and you may find your luggage gets to your room before you do.