Mar 06 2011

Cruises for Large Families

My husband and I recently enjoyed a 7-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera on Carnival Splendor.  While aboard, we saw many families, and our conversations often turned to the question of bringing our own kids on a cruise.  After all, the kids we saw on the cruise ship seemed to be having a lot of fun, splashing in the pools, participating in Camp Carnival children’s activities, and going on onshore excursions such as pirate ship adventures.

As we watched, however, we noticed that the families we saw, had one, two, or maybe three children.  The only family with four children that we noticed all week (and believe me, as a mom of four we notice other large families) had grandparents traveling with them.

So, while we don’t doubt that our kids would enjoy a cruise, there are several drawbacks that would have to be carefully considered before cruising with our four children.

1.        Staterooms.  I have yet to find a stateroom on a cruise ship that will accommodate six people, and if one were to exist, it would certainly be very costly. The next-best option would be adjoining rooms, and in studying many Carnival deck plans, I found that not all of them offer adjoining rooms with a combined total of six people.  In the absence of adjoining rooms, we would need to separate our family into two groups and it would not be nearly as enjoyable.  Because of the limited number of ships and staterooms that would comfortably accommodate a family of six, large families would find their itineraries limited and would need to book early because of the limited availability of suitable rooms.

2.       Cost.  For a couple, a cruise can be a very economical vacation choice, especially for those who don’t drink a lot of alcohol.  Once onboard, it is possible to refrain from spending any more money.  For a family, however, there are certain economies of scale that come with staying in a single hotel room as opposed to accommodations that have a per-person price.

3.       Relaxation.  When we’re on a cruise, my husband and I are completely relaxed.  We know that our children are in good hands with their grandparents (Thanks, Grandmas and Grandpas!) and we wander about the ship as we wish.  If the kids were along, however, it would not be as relaxing a vacation.  Although our kids could spend a lot of time in the children’s activities onboard, we’d still be organizing the day—getting everyone up and fed, showered and dressed; being sure they had their sail & sign cards ready when embarking and disembarking the ship; coordinating meet-up times; and being concerned for their safety.  Delays in embarking or disembarking (as happened when we boarded this cruise) could quite possibly have me pulling my hair out.

The bottom line:

I think cruising with our kids would be a lot of fun, especially for the kids.  For a large family, however, it would not be a bargain vacation, because of the need to purchase two staterooms.  Researching and planning a large-family cruise would take more time than that required of families with one or two children, due to the limitations of staterooms and itineraries with rooms for families of six.

Have you cruised with your kids?  Which cruise line did you cruise on, and why did you choose that company?  Did your children enjoy the experience?  Did YOU enjoy the experience?  What advice would you give to families wishing to cruise with their children?

Update:  I’ve been doing some more checking.  Several Royal Caribbean ships have “Family” rooms (both inside and oceanview) that will accommodate up to six people.  They cannot be priced online, so you must call RCI or your travel agent for pricing.  The price for the first two people is higher, but then passengers 3-6 are discounted deeply.  I checked four itineraries and all were cheaper for the Family Oceanview room than for two adjoining rooms.  The upside of a family room is the size of it; the benefit of adjoining rooms is the extra bathroom.  The RCI representative I talked to encouraged me to look at both options, as sometimes the adjoining rooms are cheaper.  He also said that the family rooms sell out quickly, so I should definitely book early if that’s an option I’m interested in.

Related Posts:

My Top Ten Carnival Splendor Tips
Tips from an Expert First-Time Cruiser
Planning Your First Cruise

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2 comments so far

2 Comments to “Cruises for Large Families”

  1. Kara @ The Vacation Gals on 12 Mar 2011 at 11:09 am

    On both my Holland America Alaska cruise and Disney Dream cruise in the Bahamas, we were in a room w/ a connecting door.

    Kids LOVED both cruises! :-)

  2. Wayne Jordan on 06 Sep 2011 at 9:14 am

    I agree that for a large family, a cruise would be more expensive that traveling to a location and staying in a hotel.. However, an Alaskan cruise would be a good educational experience for children old enough to understand the historical perspective of the locations.

    for families with smaller children, most ships provide a day-care staff so mom & dad can have some private time.

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