SAVVY TRAVEL

Cruising with Kids

It's no surprise that parents love Disney Cruise Line. Still, there's more to a family cruise than Mickey and magic. You want the best for children while grownups have time for romance, dress-up dining, spa and shore excursions. Whether you're sailing Disney out of Port Canaveral or other ships worldwide, consider:

  • Don't rule out Disney for a no-kids cruise. The new (January 26, 2011) Disney Dream, has an elegant French restaurant, adults-only spa and much more.
  • Sally Black at www.VacationKids.com was "blown away" by Caribbean cruises out of Fort Lauderdale on board Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. She reports, "Plenty of parades and photo ops for kids, Dreamworks characters including Shrek , and an excellent baby program with a splash pool just for toddlers in swim diapers. She likes the suites that allow families to be together for one price.
  • Cathy Udovch, cruise specialist at www.TravelStore.com likes Norwegian Cruise Lines' newest ship, Norwegian Epic, featuring Nickelodeon characters and programs for children, youths and teens. The ships has formal and informal dining and fabulous entertainers.
  • The best thing about Disney, says jewelry designer AngiePangie (AngiePangie.com) is that the ships have kids'clubs where children can be dropped off from early morning until midnight. "We felt completely safe leaving the girls (ages 3 and 4) there. They gave us pagers in case we were needed."
  • Know in advance what facilities are available for infants and children when parents want a late night out. In-cabin babysitting is usually not permitted.
  • Does the cruise line have a minimum age for infants? If you're pregnant, what is the policy about cruising after so-many months?
  • How are children's groups divided? Most large ships have at least some facilities for children but large groups may be divided, say, ages 3 to 7 or 7 to 12. That's too large a large leap for most children. Children's programs may be full-service during school holidays but much skimpier at other times.
  • What is the line's policy about meals? Do you have to collect your kids for meals, then re-enrol them afterwards?
  • Are there any extra charges for food or drinks, craft supplies, children's shore excursions, pager rental, babysitting?
  • American Safari, for one, offers Kids in Nature cruises of Alaska and the Sea of Cortes with focus on hands-on discovery in some of the world's most exciting regions. www.AmericanSafariCruises.com. Ships are small, programs personalized and learning is fun.

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