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Cruising With Grandchildren
By Paula Hughes Court
After September 11th, the travel industry reported a surge in
multigenerational travel, citing the need for families to bring everyone closer together.
Today, traveling with grandchildren or "grandtravel" accounts for one in every
five trips taken. If you're looking for an easy and economical way to vacation
with grandchildren, consider taking a cruise.
"Aboard Disney Cruise Line we increasingly play host to more
multi-generational travel than ever before," says Angela Bliss, Publicist, Disney Cruise
Lines. "More than half of our guests travel in an extended family party and
grandparents who want to test the waters of "grandtravel" are discovering cruises to
be an ideal holiday itinerary."
Before you book a cruise there are a few things you need to know.
S0 MANY SHIPS-TOO MANY CHOICES:
Choosing the right cruise ship is the most important decision you'll make.
Most, but not all, cruise lines offer day-camps and scheduled activities for
children. This is a necessary requirement unless you want to return home
exhausted. Know that most cruise lines require children to be three-years-old and
potty-trained to participate in youth activities.
Before booking, confirm that the ship offers their children's program during
the time period you're cruising. Some ships only offer scheduled activities
during the summer months and the vacation weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas,
President's Week and Easter. Also ask if the children's program is available while
in port and on formal nights.
Another thing to keep in mind is the ship's itinerary. The Caribbean, Alaska
and Hawaii itineraries are children's favorites. Other itineraries can work as
well, but they may require more research for child friendly activities.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME:
Discuss all ground rules with the child's parent present to head off any
potential problems. An important issue to decide is if your grandchild will be
allowed to roam the ship unsupervised. Be forewarned-this issue will come up!
Some cruise lines allow children as young as eight to sign themselves out of
the supervised program. Walkie-talkies are a good solution to this sticky
issue and they work well on ships. Buy one for everyone so you can stay in
Passports-If the ship's itinerary requires a passport and your grandchild
doesn't have one, apply for it immediately and allow several weeks for
processing. You should also bring along a letter signed by the parent authorizing
any necessary medical attention and a notarized letter by a custodial parent
granting permission for the child to travel with you.
Don't forget to pack your grandchild's favorite toy and any medications.
If you're flying to the port city, pack games, books, a bathing suit and an
extra change of clothes for your grandchild in your carryon.
Children's Programs-Most cruise lines offer scheduled activities from 9
a.m.-12, 2-5 and 7-10pm. This means you can drop your grandchild off after
breakfast, relax by the pool and pick him up for lunch. After a couple of hours
together, he'll be ready to rejoin his friends while you enjoy a quiet afternoon
Dining-Flexibility is the key here. Coaxing children out of a pool,
getting them dressed and ready to sit quietly through a four-course dinner every
night can be a challenge. Work out a compromise by eating dinner occasionally at
the buffet. The good news is that almost all ships offer a tempting menu of
children's favorites-hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers and pizza.
Shore excursions-Think carefully about your grandchild's interests before
booking an expensive shore excursion. A general rule, though each child is
different, is to stay away from long bus rides, shopping trips and scenic tours.
Choose excursions that include water and/or animals such as snorkeling,
aquariums or nature walks and don't forget to pack plenty of snacks. In some ports,
it may be more practical to rent a car and explore on your own.
Don't be surprised to see a few tears upon leaving the ship. Children love
spending special time with their grandparents and hate for the trip to end. Need
a simple foolproof way to turn those tears into smiles? Pull out a stack of
brochures and start planning next year's cruise.
BEST CRUISE LINES FOR CHILDREN:
The following cruise lines offer year-round children's programs and dedicated
Disney Cruise Lines-Good food, roomy cabins, fantastic children's programs
and Mickey Mouse. What more could anyone ask for? www.disneycruise.com
Norwegian Cruise Lines-Norwegian's new "freestyle cruising" concept is a plus
for families with children. Formal attire is never required and you can eat
whenever, wherever you like at up to eleven different restaurants. www.ncl.com
Royal Caribbean-There's never a shortage of fun things to do on this line
that's becoming a favorite for multigenerational travel. Ice-skating,
rock-climbing and miniature golf are a few of the many choices. www.rccl.com
Paula Hughes Court is a freelance writer specializing in family and senior