I needed an escape to the sun for my kids’ February school break. But the Presidents’ Week holiday means peak airfares, especially for a family of four. So, rather than flying to the sun, we sailed to it—aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway. We drove from our house to the ship and boarded a seven-night cruise from New York to the Bahamas and back. It took longer to get to 75-degree weather than if we’d flown, but what we lost in time we made up for in the fact that we were able to start the relaxation part of our vacation even before we’d sailed past the Statue of Liberty.
A giant cruise ship is not for everyone, but here’s why it can make sense for busy kids and their exhausted parents:
* You move from place to place without having to worry about logistics.
You need not rent a car, schlep bags, find your hotel, check in, check out again, find your next hotel, etc. You wake up in a different place every day, yet you unpack only once. This was my children’s tenth cruise, actually. They’ve seen places by ship that would have been too time-consuming, expensive, or logistically tough to see any other way. It’s how they got to the Pyramids of Giza, the ruins of Ephesus, the castles on the Danube.… In fact, if you’re thinking about a cruise with your kids, my 12-year-old has crucial advice for you.
* There’s free child care.
Unlike at a hotel, your kids can’t wander off the property and get lost. They can’t get bored either because there are a gazillion activities to keep them occupied. Best of all, the ship exhausts your kids for you: Onboard the Breakaway, there’s a free, supervised kids’ club that operates most hours of the day, from 9 a.m. till 10:30 p.m. For kids that are old enough, there’s also a Sports Deck complete with zip-line, ropes course, rock-climbing wall, mini-golf, and water slides. To find out which ships offer children’s programs and kid-friendly bells and whistles, check Cruise Critic.
* Everyone in the family gets “me time.”
Mom, Dad, the kids, even Grandma and Grandpa can go do their own thing when they like, then come together for meals. For example, while my kids play Ping Pong on deck, my husband can go to the hot tub, and I can stay put on our balcony reading novels. Parents get “couple time” too: Thanks to the kids’ club, Tim and I can have seven date nights.
* There are no arguments over food.
At a resort, you can spend a small fortune ordering meals that your kids decide after one bite they don’t want to eat. On a large ship with a dozen restaurants and a mega-buffet, everybody can eat what they want, when they want, where they want. Tim and I often feed our kids at the buffet (since they can always find something they like, including vegetables and fruits) and then drop them back at the kids’ club at 7:00 p.m. and go to an adult dinner in one of the specialty restaurants. Another plus for parents: You can drink without having to worry about driving home.
* Your view is always changing.
My favorite thing about a cruise is how the view out your window changes daily, if not hourly. You can sit on your cabin balcony, or in the hot tub, a pina colada in hand, watching ports appear and recede. Even when the only sight off your balcony is ocean for as far as the eye can see, the ocean’s color and texture are always changing. To me such sea views are mesmerizing; they soothe the soul—and give me that feeling that I’ve truly escaped.
A one-week cruise from New York to the Bahamas isn’t really travel—your primary destination is the ship itself—but it sure was an easy way to give my family a vacation.
You’ll find more travel advice from Wendy at WendyPerrin.com.