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How to Cruise with Kids Without Going Insane

Family Children Beach Cruise Ship Relaxation Concept

For our family, taking a cruise is pretty much the perfect family vacation. I don’t have to cook, do the dishes, or make any beds. There’s plenty of food to cater to my kids’ varying degrees of pickiness as well as more gourmet options for my foodie tastebuds. Plus, my husband and I can even sneak away for couple time by the pool.

Before we went on our first cruise, seven days at sea felt like a big commitment when we had kids in tow. After our cruise to the Caribbean with a then seven-year-old and three-year-old, I’ve learned a few trips to keep everyone happy on a cruise with kids and, best of all, that kept me sane the entire time. Note: Our family traveled on Carnival Cruises, so make sure to double check with your cruise line to see if they offer similar services.

Book a cabin with a balcony. This truly was a lifesaver for us. We didn’t want to spend money on a suite since I knew we’d use the room mostly for sleeping. Once we put the kids to bed, my husband and I sat on the balcony with a cup of coffee or tea. Watching the ocean waves while catching up was one of the best parts of my day.

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Send your kids to cruise camp. Our cruise offered a free day camp for kids as young as two years old through teens. The large rooms were bright and filled with toys, arts and crafts, and video games to keep kids entertained. The camp counselors also planned out fun games such as a toilet paper wrapping contest or talent show for the kids. While the kids are in camp, head down to the pool to relax or visit the spa for a massage.

Order room service for breakfast. I don’t know about you, but when I’m on vacation, I want to sleep in. Unfortunately, my kids never sleep in. Plus, they’re crazy-hungry as soon as they wake up. Instead of getting dressed to run down to the dining hall early in the morning, we scheduled room service breakfast to be delivered in the morning. It was a win-win. The kids ate breakfast in their pajamas while Mom and Dad lounged in bed (or on the balcony) with coffee and pastries. Later we’d head down for a heartier meal of eggs and bacon.

Take naps during sea days. There’s no need to go off schedule during vacation. After lunch and a quick romp around the ship’s deck, I’d take my son back to our cabin for a short nap while my husband took our daughter to the pool or back to camp.  This way both of us were refreshed for the afternoon and evening activities. Some days my daughter had quiet time in the cabin while the rest of us napped.

Dine as a family. In the evenings, Carnival offers seated dinners with waitstaff. According to my kids, it was “fancy” since we dressed up and used cloth napkins. I was worried the waitstaff would be appalled at my young ones’ lack of “fancy” table manners. However, the Carnival staff were amazing with the kids. They took the time to joke with the kids and made sure the food was prepared to the kids’ liking. By the end of our cruise, both of my kids had managed to pick up some restaurant dining etiquette. And fall in love with the molten chocolate cake.

Stay up later. What’s the point of vacation if you don’t get to stay up late? Each day we received a schedule brimming with activities such as movies by the pool, live game shows, dance lessons, and trivia contests. Thanks to the nap, the kids had enough energy to sit through a movie night by the pool or attend that evening’s stage entertainment.

Go on a date. For a fee, the cruise offered evening camp for the kids so their adults could paint the ship red. The rates were reasonable, and they were already familiar with the camp counselors. There’s plenty of late night options, so go on that date you’ve been putting off. Go dancing in the club or have a couple of drinks at the bar.

Vacationing on a cruise ship with little kids can feel overwhelming at first, but a little planning makes a big difference.  My husband and I even had time to reconnect, thanks to all the great childcare options. Taking a go-with-the-flow attitude (me, not the kids) was the best thing I ever did on our vacation.

image: Getty/Rawpixel Ltd

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