Going on a Cruise

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2010 - 2014 Reviews

Caribbean Cruise for parents' 50th wedding anniversary?

Feb 2014

Our parents' 50th wedding anniversary is coming up this fall and we are thinking about inviting them to a 5-7 day cruise in the Caribbean. Has your family booked a trip with Royal Caribbean Cruises and have you been on either the 'Navigator of the Seas' (out of Galveston, TX) or the 'Freedom of the Seas' (out of Port Canaveral, FL)? I know our senior parents will love it ... but will our kids (ages 8 and 11) be entertained as well? Would you do it again or was it a one-time experience for you? If we decide to do the cruise, we would prefer to work with a travel agency who is specialized in cruises and can help us putting together package deals (air fares/cruise ship/adjoining rooms, etc). Do you have any recommendation for a friendly agent? Never been on a cruise

We went on a Royal Caribbean Cruise out of Florida to the Bahamas 13 years ago when I was 12 and my sister was 7. We both had a blast, but then again, it's hard to find an upset kid with water, sand and free food and drinks everywhere they look, not to mention a cool vessel to explore. T

We sailed on Navigator of the Seas last August with 2 boys (ages 13 and 9). The kids loved, loved, loved the ship, and definitely preferred it to the sights they saw at the ports of call. Our cabins were very comfortable. We prefer cabins located in the back half of the ship, because we were closer to the things they loved to do. We could walk a short distance to the elevator bank to ride up to most of the activities, rather than having to walk the length of the ship. They spent some time in the kids and teen club and a lot of time in the pools, playing putt putt, using the climbing wall, ice skating, etc. The food was fine cruise ship fare. They accommodated the kids in the main dining room and made a cheeseburger for my younger son every night, even when it wasn't on the menu. The boys' favorite was the neverending frozen yogurt machine on the pool deck.

We booked the cruise ourselves on the phone with Royal Caribbean, which was pretty easy. We had shopped around online so we knew what deals were being offered, and did not hesitate to ask them to match what we had seen elsewhere. RC's website has a pretty good map of the ship and cabins, so you can see where your cabins are located and decide where you want to be. Costco can also be a good place to look, because they may offer additional shipboard credit, etc. The RC representative who booked the cruise for us also took care of our dining room table assignment.

We booked our own airfare, which may or may not work for you. If you book through RC, they will be responsible to make sure your flights get in on time so you don't miss the ship, but they also may book you via a less direct route than you would select for yourself. On a previous cruise where we used the cruise line for flights, they booked us on a red eye, which we would never have chosen with our kids, who were really young at the time.

As for excursions, we did not book those through RC, but looked online, mostly through cruisecritic.com (great reviews of ships, ports, and excrusions) and travelocity, for recommendations. The small companies that provide these excursions live and die by the recommendations and have a highly vested interested in making sure you will not give them a negative review. For the same price as the ship excursions, we beat the cruise ship crowds and ended up in much smaller, or even private, groups for our tours.

As our cruise was finishing last summer, our kids told us about a different, newer ship that they had seen profiled when watching TV in the cabin. They said they wanted to sail on next time, because it offered more bells and whistles. Having said that, we were very pleased with Navigator of the Seas. It did not feel old or tired.

Cruises sometimes seem kind of cheesy, but we have been on several, most of which included our parents and siblings. It works really well when you have a large group of people that includes kids and grandparents. Everyone can do their own thing during the day and meet up for meals. You also avoid most negotiations about where or when to eat. Cruises also tend to be a good value. In my mind, the ship is the destination more than the ports of call because you don't spend long enough at any port of call to really experience it. Susan

Family Alaskan Cruise

May 2013

Although not really 'cruise types', we would really like to see some of the beauty of Alaska with our 13 year old daughter this summer. I have a knee injury, so cannot trek on land very easily at this time. We have looked in the archives, but cannot find much.

Do you know of any particular cruise lines we should look at for good service and for attention to the natural beauty of the area? Doesn't have to be a trip with a naturalist on board (although that would be wonderful), nor do we need bells and whistles and Vegas-type shows. Thank you for any suggestions you might have! Anon

Well, last year somebody with a diverse group/family ask for the same question... We did go to the Alaska Cruise, our 17 year old daughter said she wanted to the the glaciers before they were gone...so we decided that was a good opportunity to go on a family vacation with my husband, my Mom ( 70 going on to 15) my son, who turned 21 while in Alaska and my daughter. I'm an expert traveler/ control freak, 'wanna be travel agent' but this time, when I started my search, i realized I could not do it on my own... way too many choices and since we were not too happy about the cruise idea, reluctantly we were going to take a cruise...I decided to leave it to a real expert. Pat Frega from Travel to Go, help us. She new about the different cruise lines, and the rooms,the food, etc (925) 672-9840 Anyway, Holland America seem like a small one, I think the name was Westerdam...we went from Seattle, it is easier and cheaper than other ports. We pay more for the cabins with balcony - I would not do it another way-I don't think I will take many more cruises anyway, but 2 rooms with a door in between gave us privacy, the balconies added extra comfort and fresh air! the teens and my Mom share the bedroom and although very small space had a wonderful time! I have the itenerary but not with me... We did a very expensive excursion in helicopter to the glacier- really amazing, that day my Mom took a bus excursion and love it! another time we rented a private boat to see whales, expensive too but those were the only 2 things we did, otherwise, one day you stay in the boat that goes inside a National Park, and the other day we just walk the town. The last port was Victoria, very pretty town...

The cruise itself was an amazing experience, we learn to contemplate from the big windows. Our favorite space was the bar/library/ den, people will just seat there have a drink, play cards, look at internet ( it was expensive so we decided to disconnect...) and look at the beutiful scenary. the crowd was relax, older, definitely not a party boat! We saw some kids like in a group doing activities but there were not many ( we went in June) They have casino and pools and clubs and shows but really, you don't even have to join any of those ( we did join the spa and had a great time!) but if my Mom wanted to see a show, she could.

The food, oh well, they try...they have everything, not in our organic/healthy counsious perspective but it was ok. Couple of night we pay extra for a special dinner and the main dinning room was actually very good. I think it is worth to go and adjust a little, understanding that the food is ok, not wonderful but pretty decent. Good luck, Mariedda

We went on a Holland America cruise to Alaska last summer because we needed a vacation that would accommodate 3 generations, and it was nice. It was nice to not cook, etc. I had expected a little more Alaska and a little less cruise. We enjoyed it, my in-laws especially, but I have to say though, if we had it to do as a family (of 4), I'd have preferred taking the Alaska Marine Highway. The Alaska ferry is what the locals take, but the seas are much calmer because it's all inside passage and you get really close to shore, and see a lot more wildlife. Plus you can stay overnight in the towns and see what they're like after masses of tourists get back on the cruise ship. It's not fancy, but when I did that years ago it was a lot of fun. It's not as convenient as booking a cruise is, but you see the same stuff and make your own schedule. Sue

In this situation 3 or 4 years ago, we happily discovered Kirsten Chute, with a small business called Cruises for Families. She knows everything about all the lines and ships, makes recommendations, and then did the booking at a lower price than we found elsewhere. Even questions we didn't know to ask -- such as the matter of a younger teenage girl in the party. Safe? Cautions to take? Answer was that some cruise lines are safer than others, and a few ports are to be really careful in. www.cruisesforfamilies.com, (630) 789-4400 (in Illinois). John

Choose very carefully. When I was 13 my parents took me on an Alaskan Cruise and it was awful for a young teenager. Most of the other passengers were retirement age and there was very little for a teenage girl to do. I was into the outdoors and interested in seeing Alaska but there wasn't much to be seen on the cruise. will not cruise again until i'm old too

Alaskan Cruise Company for multi-generational fam

Jan 2013

Hi. We would like to go on a cruise this summer to Alaska with our kids (ages 9 and 2), my in laws (in their 80s but healthy and adventurous) and brother and sister-in-law with their 18 year old son. The archived messages are all 6+ years old so I'd love recommendations on cruise lines that will be good for young kids, a teenager and adults. Several of my co-workers went on Princess over the last 2 years and all agreed that it wasn't great for kids. Disney looks fun but is quite expensive--did people find it was worth the cost? Disney takes toddlers in the kids club, but I've heard that many of the other cruise lines require kids to be 3 to go to the kids club. Thanks! Cindy

Last August we took an Alaskan Cruise on Royal Carribean (Radiance Of The Seas). We loved it and saw quite a few multi generational families.I do not have young children but the ones I saw seemed to be enjoying themselves. All of the staff was amazing and I did not want the cruise to end. Ellen

Cruise line and destination for family

Dec 2011

My in-laws would like to take their extended family on a cruise together this summer, and are asking for suggestions. Age range is 7 to 77. Carribean, Central America, maybe even Galapagos...looking for advice on this. Do not want to end up on a party boat, but don't need Disney characters either. Educational, beautiful, fun, but also good food and no overcrowded 'cattle call' feeling on the ship. Even recommending a good cruise line would help. - Never been cruisin'

My family and I go on a cruise every January. There are lots of options, and most cruises have programs for kids. The one we are going on in January next year is the Folk n' Irish cruise. This one is organized by Cherish The Ladies maven Joanie Madden, the larger than life, great- humored leader of this all-women band. Joanie is the Grammy Award winning whistle and flute player who has been the leader of Cherish the Ladies since its inception.

We leave from Miami on January 29th, 2012 and the cruise goes to Great Stirrup Cay, Cozumel, Mexico, Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Grand Cayman Island. While floating around to these wonderful places aboard the Norwegian Pearl, there will be concerts, set dancing, waltzing and jiving, workshops of all kinds, lectures, singing and traditional music jam sessions. It is very family oriented. Bring your dance shoes, your voice and your instrument.

The Folk cruise is part of the larger cruise ship contingent, so if you are getting too much folk music, you can still attend all the rest of the entertainment that the cruise ship provides, including all the other Disneyfied or Vega-esque shows. There is SO MUCH to do, like waterslides, rock climbing wall, bars and lounges of all kinds, pools, casino, hot tubs, kid's centers, teen discos, spa and fitness centers. If you really can't get away from it all, they have wi-fi in all the rooms.

You can't book the music cruise directly with Norwegian Cruise lines. You need to go to the Cherish The Ladies website and click on the link there. Shay

Disney or Carnival Cruise to Mexico

July 2011

We have three small girls and we would like to take a cruise to Mexico with them. Have you been on Disney or Carnival cruise lines and would you recommend them and why? The reviews I read about Disney were not very good but then I imagine the people who had a great time don't write reviews. Claudia

We went on a Disney cruise in the Caribbean with our two small kids and loved it. If you want to read reviews of Disney cruises from people who (in most cases) liked them, go here: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showcat.php?cat=73 Here is good info about Disney cruises: http://allears.net/cruise/cruise.htm http://www.castawayclub.com/ -Disney Lover

We took the Carnival cruise to Mexico (ship- Splendor) for spring break with our kids (6 & 2). We would not go again. My kids both didn't like the daycare. 6 year-old super-social girl who jumps into everything didn't want to go back after the first day. They played a game called 'mummy' where they wrap you up in TP. They said the youngest had to be the mummy, and when she said she didnt want to, she was told by the adult that then she could sit out. 2 year old seemed to have a love-hate relationship with it. Loved the trains & toys, but hated the rest. They don't allow parents to even walk in the play area to get kids used to it. He cried because they were making fruit loop necklaces and he was not allowed to eat the fruit loops. We didn't plan on using the daycare a lot, bit a few hours alone would have been nice! The other BIG downside is that there is no kiddie pool. All the pools are 4 feet deep. There is a 'splash zone' play ground with water squirting everywhere, but it is on the top deck where it was too cold and windy most of the days at sea. Staff was friendly and the food/ restaurants were ok, but not stellar. All in all, we realized we had much more fun OFF the ship, and next time would rather just do an all-inclusive in Mexico at the beach! The not so fun ship

Disney Cruise Travel Specialist

Jan 2010

Can anyone recommend a wonderful travel specialist who is skillful at booking Disney cruises? My huge family would like to plan a family reunion on a Disney cruise with an extended stay before or after the cruise at Disneyworld in the summer of 2011. There would be 50-60 of us coming in from all over the US and overseas and we'd range in age from 2-70. I'd love any recommendations and advice from those who've had pleasant Disney cruise experiences. Thank you! Herding Cats Onboard

YES! I can absolutely point you towards a WONDERFUL Disney-savvy travel assistant!!! Please contact Mary Kraemer at MaryK [at] CruisingCo.com Mary planned our Nov08 Disney Cruise for us (we had never done anything like this), and it was *fabulous*! She is very well-versed in All Things Disney, plus, as the mom of 4, she knows how to plan for *families*. You can also reach her by phone at (650)520-7688 or (800) 614-1363.
Have a GREAT vacation!!!!! Leslie

2005 - 2009 Reviews

What to do at cruise ports in Mexico

June 2009

We're going on a Mexican Riviera cruise in August and will be stopping at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. I've been looking at the shore excursions and was wondering which ones might be fun for a 9 year old. I'd love just hanging out at the beach, but we've never been to any of these places so would love to do something adventerous. My son is excited about possibly swimming with dolphins. Has anyone done that in Mexico? Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. fun on cruise

Hi, We went on the same cruise several years ago. my son was 5 yrs old & my daughter was 10 yrs old. In Puerto Vallarta we went on a scenic tour of the old country town. It was great to share with the kids the way other people have to live in their countries without electricity, running water, roofs over head and dirt floors in their homes. It was a two hour tour on an air conditioned bus. Then we got in a taxi (I wouldn't recommend that, they drive very fast) and went to eat at an authentic Mexican restaurant down town, did some shopping with the local vendors. We found the best deals in Puerto Vallarta on souvenirs. Things get a little more expensive and not as much of a selection in Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. In Mazatlan we went on the beach party shore excursion. That was a blast. The beach party was held at a ***** resort with a swimming pool and buffet on the beach. The kids got to run up and down the beach with the clear blue ocean water and play in the white sand. My husband and I sat under an umbrella on the beach watching the children play. All the while different vendors tried to sell us home made jewelry. Now Cabo was tricky. You have to go a shore in a tender, so you spend a lot of time waiting in line. And there isn't anything at the tender dock. You have to either walk into town or take a bicycle taxi about 2 miles. Its also the port you're in for the shortest amount of time early in the morning. 7:00am -12:00pm I would recommend doing a snorkeling shore excursion in Cabo. The water is perfectly clear and warm. Nothing is really open in town other than the bars in the morning. The only place we found open in Cabo was burger king until about 10:00am. There really isn't any beach access in cabo either. Sharon

Alaskan cruise family reunion

Sept 2009

I need some recent recommendations for a 7-night Alaskan cruise for a family reunion of 15 people, ages 3 to 78. Which ships, which ports, which excursions?? cruising...

I took a cruise to Alaska in May for my Mom's 80th birthday, with my husband, my almost-4-yr-old daughter, my sister, my brother and his wife. Not quite on the same scale as your reunion, but along the same lines. We were on the Celebrity Infinity, leaving from Seattle, and thought it was fabulous. My daughter loved the kids program (the Fun Zone), and evening babysitting was readily available for a mere $8 an hour. She keeps talking about going to Alaska again, and when I asked what she liked about it, she said the Fun Zone. Some cruise lines have different age limits for their kids programs (I think 5 and up for Holland America and 7 for Radisson, which nixed those options as far as I was concerned). The food was great; I was surprised by how much I enjoyed eating in the main dining room with its assigned tables and scheduled seating, and even more surprised by how patient my daugher was with the 5 course meals. The wait staff was great about remembering her favorites, and! making sure she didn't have to wait too long to get fed. My mom uses a walker and rented a scooter for the trip; she was able to get around fine.

As far as itinereary goes, I don't know how much it really matters. When I booked the cruise I was concerned about the days at sea, but ended up really finding them relaxing--using the pool, the fitness center, hanging out with family playing Sorry, etc. The amount of time spent in each port was pretty short--particularly Kechikan at 4 hours (and you lose 1/2 hr or so getting off and back on the boat). So if you really want to see the sights of Alaska, you might find the cruise disappointing. But if you look at the cruise as the primary activity and sightseeing as secondary, it really is fabulous.

My group split up for shore excursions, since my Mom's mobility was limited. She mostly booked shore excursions that could accommodate her scooter. In Juneau, my husband and I didn't prearrange anything but found shuttle transportation to the Mendenhall Glacier readily available. We took a cab to downtown Victoria. We did book a shore excursion in Ketchikan, a combination of the Saxman Native Village and the lumberjack show. My daughter loved the Lumberjack show, and so did I. In retrospect, I should have passed on the Saxman Native Village in exchange for having more time to walk around.

Whatever you choose, have a great time. Carrie

We went on Holland America a few years back and it was great. The ports tend to be mostly the same. Favorite excursions (though the priciest) were the helicopter ride landing on the Mendenhall Glacier and the Seaplane tour of the misty fjords. I am pretty cheap and wasn't happy about spending the $ on these but afterwards felt like it was some of the best money I'd ever spent! missing Alaska

Cruise with an infant

May 2006

We'll be taking our five month old on a Regent/Radisson Seven Seas Cruise to Alaska in July to celebrate my mother-in-law's sixtieth. Does anyone have any advice for what to bring and how to manage it so that everyone stays happy & sane? Previous posts dealt with much older kids & I'm curious to see if anyone has experience doing this with an infant. It sounds like a particularly formal cruise line and I'm worried that it will be like eight days of flying business class & dealing with the other passengers' angry looks...Do we need to bring everything baby or will some items be sold on board (like diapers?) Thanks in advance for your advice! Laura

My advice is never take a baby on a cruise. I would recommend getting a family member to watch the child. I was on a Mexico cruise on Carnival which is great for kids however, babies are your responsibility. The Cruise line you are on is extremely formal and it would not be fun for you or the baby. I would bring everything baby including diapers and also find out if that cruise line has a baby sitting service or a place for kids and at what age do they start. Alaska is beautiful at this time of year. if you have questions just e-mail me. Nicole nicole

Scandinavian cruise - must-see places

February 2006

We are planning on going on a Scandinavian cruise this June with our 5 1/2 year-old. The ports are Stockholm, Gdansk, Tallin, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Oslo, and Copenhagen. I have a friend in Denmark, so the question relates to the other ports, mostly. Keeping in mind the child age and laziness factor, what are one or two things you must see. Generally, we stay in port for one full day in each city. Any other pearls of wisdom for a cruise with a child? Anon

Hi i lived in Stockholm for 13years and i can recommend to go with your child to a place called ''Junibacken'' it,s on Djurgarden right next to the ''Vasamuseum''which you should visit as well if you have the time and patience with a child....Junibacken is a kind of interactive museum of Astrid Lindgrens most popular childrensbook characters...i have never been to the museum part itself ,,,i,ve only vicited their wonderful bookstore a couple of times but that is definetely a place to see with a child....you might dock with the cruiseship at old town which is amazing in itself and from there you can take a ferry right across to djurgarden where it is.... i love Stockholm ...it is for me the most beautiful city... enjoy your trip...Scandinavien as always worth to visit...i wish more people would Astrid

I went on a similar cruise this past summer. We mostly booked tours that the cruise line offered, so I didn't really roam the cities much on my own. For copenhagen and st. petersburg, there are good harbour cruises. The Vasa Museum in Stockholm is a museum built physically around a sailing ship that sank on its maiden voyage. If you like boats, its pretty neat. Lots of palaces and beautiful churches in St Petersburg. A shopping excursion to get some russian nesting dolls, may also be of interest. fellow traveler

Hi! I am a Norwegian living in Berkeley. If I had one day in Oslo with a five-year-old, I would probably go and see the Kings Castle, on the top of the main street, Karl Johan, or to Vigelands Park, a park with lots of statues of people. Both has lots of space to run around for kids, and things to see for adults. Synnove

Sounds like a great cruise. In general the Scandinavians have given a great deal of thought to the needs and perspectives of children, so it is unusually easy to travel with children in the Nordic region. Stockholm is the city I know best of the ones on your itinerary -- it's a beautiful place and fun for kids. You can get what is called The Stockholm Card, which gives you use of public transportation (inc. ferries) and free entry to attractions for a day (or more than one day). It costs about $35 per adult per 24 hours and $15 per child. Probably your best bet is to head out by brief ferry from Stromkajen or Nybrohamn (subway stop Kungstradgarden) to the large island called Djurgarden (yoor-gorden, approx. meaning Animal Park). It was once the royal hunting preserve and is now mostly a park area with a number of attractions. The best of these for adults is probably the Vasa Museum, which is actually a battle-ship that sank in the 1600s on its maiden voyage and remained in Stockholm's harbor until the 1970s, when it was raised and restored. The entire ship, repainted and refurbished with cannons, etc. is now under a roof and you can walk through it. It is a fascinating museum and not bad for kids, as they can run around in the huge space. My son liked it when he was five. Also on Djurgarden is Skansen, an outdoor museum to which Swedish houses and farm structures were brought in from the country and rebuilt. There are re-creations of old Swedish farming life (cheesemaking and the like) as well as native animals (reindeer, etc.) The amusement park, Grona Lund, would also be worth a visit; all of these attractions are within walking distance of one another on the island.

Kungstradgarden (The Royal Park) often has activities set up for kids (my son loved a giant slide there), and Sweden House (Sverigehuset) is located at the corner of the park, with lots of tourist info, souvenirs, books on Sweden, handicrafts, etc. etc. Certainly you should take the subway to Gamla Stan (Old City) and stroll around the medieval part of Stockholm -- it's very small and very charming, and the Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet) is there, with the changing of the guard at times posted. (It's a pretty modest changing of the guard, not like Buckingham Palace, but therefore much more personal.) If you have more time, a trip out to Lidingo (a fancy part of Stockholm) to the Milles Gard sculpture park is beautiful. A sculpture garden is easier for a kid than a traditional museum, and the soaring stone sculptures and tranquil park are well worth a visit. The subway ride out there is also quite interesting (Stockholm's stations are hewn out of the rock and left rough, though painted.)

If you have more time a trip out to Drottingsholm is also fun -- there is a park and an 18th-century theater with fun tours. And if it rains... well, the Swedes have a saying ''There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.'' But if you are not of that conviction, you can retreat to the Stockholm City Museum, which is an historical museum of the City of Stockholm, but it is designed to entertain kids as well as adults and is quite fun. The Vasa ship would still be great under rainy circumstances.

Trevlig resa! Linda

Cruise with an 11-month-old?

August 2005

My husband and I have our first vacation coming up since our daughter was born, and were thinking about going on a cruise. Neither of us have ever been on a cruise, and were wondering if anyone has been with a baby. Our daughter will be 11 months at the time. I've heard Carnival caters to families the most- has anyone gone on one of their cruises? Also, we were wondering what the babysitting is like. The Carnival website mentions ''slumber-party'' style group babysitting in the evenings, and although they will take babies as young as 6 months, I'm not sure this would be great for younger children. Any advice would be most welcome- Thanks! Laura

Hi, we just got back from an Alaska cruise with our 14 month old. This was our first real vacation since having our baby, we choose Alaska because we were going to be in Seattle for a wedding. This was my fifth cruise and my husbands second. We went on the NCL line, the Norwegian Star. We used Kristin at cruises for families (www.cruisesforfamilies.com) She was VERY helpful in deciding what line we would use. They don't have any baby sitting for children under two. So we had our guy with us the entire time. We didn't mind, we enjoyed the week! The entire cruise for us was a lot different then when we cruised before(we got engaged on the last one :) My husband made the comment that there didn't seem to be as much going on, on this boat. I alerted him that it was us who weren't going on. Between naps and early bedtime, you don't do nearly as much on the boat if you didn't have a little one. We didn't see any shows or anything like that. I was surprised at the number of families on the boat, I expected us to be the miniority. That wasn't the case. The only bad thing was the crib they provided, it reminded me of a cage. The pad was only one inch thick. The little guy wasn't very comfortable and ended up in bed with us every night. But overall I would do it again. We really enjoyed what they call ''freestyle dining'' Back in the old days, dinner was served at two different times, like 6 and 8. Now, you have a lot more options. You can go between 5-9:30 and there are a lot more restaurants to choose from! Good luck and have fun! debbie

I can't comment on Carnival specifically, but re: taking a baby on a cruise... we went on a cruise with our son when he was about 16 months old. We didn't take advantage of childcare since we had family with us that were happy to give us a break sometimes, but we did look in on it, and it seemed fairly basic, not too exciting. The cruise itself wasn't geared at all to toddlers - there were no activities planned for them - so we made our own fun with him... mostly wandering the boat. He actually spent much of the time feeling seasick, as did I, so we didn't have too much fun. Aside from that, the complete display of wanton privilege and ignorance of the poverty of the places we docked was pretty sickening... I mean, the whole thing was about eating eating eating 5 courses per meal with half of that food getting thrown out, and if we didn't want dessert or something the staff looked at us like we were nuts -- and in the same day, going out into Nassau and seeing sick, malnourished people... Okay, I'm ranting now, sorry. not going on another cruise

Mexican Riviera Cruise with 5-yr-old

February 2005

In May we will be guests on a cruise going to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and Cabo San Lucas. Can anyone recommend any good family activities for 2 parents and a 5-year-old in these ports - either through the cruise ship's shore excursions (Celebrity) if you're familiar with them, specifically, or just on our own while we're in town. Thanks! Valerie

I have a Mexican friend, Luis Jorge, who has an excursion business in and around Manzanillo. www.excursioneslujo.com I've done several of his trips as I have a condo down there. I'm also on the Manzanillo/San Pablo Sister Cities board and have gone with Excursiones Lujo on a trip to a turtle sanctuary that is part of our project. Sydney

Lucky you! They all have great swimming. I was just in Cabo with my 6 and 11 year old and there is a small beach about 10 miles east of town - Santa Maria - that has great snorkeling and easy swimming. If your 5 year old is nervous about snorkeling he/she can just put on goggles, stand in the water and look down and there are lots of colorful fish. You can also get a double sea kayak from there and take off - our 6 year old loved both activities.

In PV you can also get a sea kayak and get out to the rocks off the Banderas Bay and snorkel. A fun beach area and place to rent kayaks from is south of town, at Mismaloya (big family resort there - La Jolla de Mismaloya - that is very kid friendly). You can walk south of La Jolla de Mismaloya to one of the palapas on the beach and eat delicious fresh fish and have a (beer? Margarits? Pepsi lite?) and sit for as long as you like while your child plays in the sand. Also, you can take a trip into the ''jungle'' a few miles east from Mismaloya to this wonderful swim hole in the rocks where you can slide down the rocks into the water and/or use ropes (branches?) to jump in. They serve a good fish lunch as well. Two hours there is plenty. You could combine this with time on Mismaloya beach - unless you want to see the town, which is very nice.

PV's center of town is very lively, with lots of shops, music and a historic area. If you like to shop, there is good shopping with some stores that have good quality Mexican folk art. Just walking along the Malecon and looking at the sculptures and people is alot of fun.

Mazatlan has an active beach scene. When my son was 4 we rented a boogie board on the beach and he spent hours playing in the surf. You could also get horses and go along the beach (also available at more secluded beach areas around Mazatlan.) My daughter, since she has been 5, always gets her hair braided on the beach. She looks forward to this whenever we are in Mexico.

If you have more quesitons, feel free to email or call. Amy

2004 & Earlier

Which cruise lines are good for kids?

February 2002

My in-laws want us (2 families with kids 4-8) to take a cruise with them. Has anyone had experience with the various cruise lines to advise which ones have good kids' programs, nicer rooms, tips about choosing a cruise, getting good discounts, and whether one can feel the ocean movement? Do you get claustrophobic or is there lots to do? How to avoid old lady cruises? We are clue-less!

We recently went on a Royal Carribean cruise to Mexico with our then 18 m.o. daughter. It was a great way to travel with a toddler: a lot of structure (you eat dinner with the same group every night and have the same servers), only unpack once, don't have to ever worry about meals, etc. It will be even better for you, as your children are over three and can join in with some of the structured activities on the ship. (We, on the other hand, were not even allowed to supervise our daughter in the children's room. Something farfetched about her diaper potentially leaking and posing a health hazard.) It's not a great way to see a place you've never been, however, as you typically only dock from 8 to 5, give or take a little bit of time. Plus, the entire town knew we came from el barco and we were told by some locals that the flea markets automatically double their prices when the ships are in.

While we were on the cruise (our first, incidentally), we had a chance to talk to the serious cruisers on board. We found Royal Carribean to be family friendly, and this observation was confirmed by others who had tried numerous cruise lines. There seemed to be some partying going on, no doubt, but we were on a separate schedule from that crowd. We were told by numerous people that Carnival is over the top with the partying scene and that the food isn't as good. (You didn't ask, but I thought the food was consistently okay, but I'm spoiled by living in the Bay Area. The aesthetic seemed to be mass quantities: 24 hour room service, ostentatious midnight buffets. There are also plenty of kid-friendly options)

You do feel the rocking of the ship. I have strong sea legs, so it never bothered me, but it took my husband a day to adjust. The water only got rough at the end of our trip, which apparently bothered some folks. The rocking ultimately worked to our advantage. Our normally wakeful daughter would be lulled back to sleep quickly when she stirred. We were on an upper deck, so we didn't hear too much engine noise, but apparently that's an issue lower down. Because we had to hang out during naps, etc, we reserved a stateroom with a balcony. Actually, the fresh air was really nice too. If you can afford it, I would definitely say it's worthwhile, especially if you are worried about clausterphobia.

We thought we were clever by bringing high powered walkie-talkies on the ship. As it turned out, others had the same clever idea. Even though we had to switch channels occasionally, it was nice to have a way to communicate if one of us wanted to go off and do something.

As for deals, I would talk to a travel agent who has experience in booking cruises. Ours was able to upgrade our stateroom for a teensy more than we would have paid for the non-balcony one because she received a fax about a cancellation at the last minute and notified us that the room had become available. We went to Dorothy Purdie at Travel Service Montclair. She has a little bit of a bossy edge to her, but she knows her stuff and was good at following through with things. Her number is 339-7000

Hope this helps! -- Ilana

Sorry, I don't have any advise on which cruises cater to families with kids, however I can tell you which ones to avoid. We took a cruise in January a few years ago on the NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines) to the Carribean and it was packed full of retired folks. I think NCL might cater to the older crowd, plus it was after the holidays so the younger people already had their holiday in December. Also, we took a Princess Cruise to Alaska in June 2001. There weren't many families with kids on the ship. As for feeling the ocean movement, the lower the cabin is, the less movement there is. Also, if you are in an inside cabin, there is less movement too. -Anonymous

In-laws want to take us on cruise to Alaska

February 2000

Advice needed on cruises: My inlaws are planning to take us all on a cruise of the inland passage in Alaska. I am worried we will all be sick from the movement of the boat or plain old cabin fever. Has anyone gone on a cruise there? What cruise lines are better (i.e., larger ships, good athletic facilities, large pool, kids' activities)? Thanks!

I've been on 2 cruises when I was in my mid-20's a few years back. Each time we stayed in the cabins on the lowest level because the lower points don't have as much movement as the upper points. Carnival was more fun for us since they had a younger crowd. When we went on NCL, it was in January, and we found it catered to an older crowd. Maybe it was because January is off-season with young adults back in school after the holidays.

I know your email said Alaksa, but I'll throw this in anyways. The 7 day cruise we took in the Caribbean visited about 6 or 7 ports. That was too many. When I look back on it all, I can't remember which port was which and it gets all meshed together. Also, we flew on a red-eye flight from SF to Chicago to San Juan Puerto Rico. We arrived in Puerto Rico during the afternoon, their time. By the time we got to bed that night, I was pooped out from being up way too many hours without any sleep, plus the time difference. I was like a zomby. Even so, it was a great trip and that shouldn't stop a person from taking a cruise in the Caribbean.

After our cruises, when we got back home and on land, we had 'shore-sickness.' I think all my friends did too. Legs are a bit wobbly and sometimes you feel like things are swaying, but it doesn't stop you from going about. It goes away in a few days.

I went on a 12-day Princess Cruise which went from San Francisco to Alaska (Inland Passage) with my grandparents about 15 years ago as a freebie tagalong for their 50th wedding anniversary. I was sick as a dog on the first day/night! It was really rough and my grandparents (the 75 year old troupers!) were amoung the few at dinner that night. I survived by staying in bed. One of the stewards brought me a sandwich which really helped settle my stomach: white lightly toasted bread, tomato, swiss cheese and turkey (no mayo/mustand/onions/pickles).

Other people have told me that that first day out from SF is the roughest--I think I hit a real bad day. We were lucky to be in an (expensive) room on one of the upper decks with a window that opened, and the fresh air really helped, too. The rest of the trip I was fine, even coming back to SF. I'm sure you'll get better advice, but be prepared for seasickness!

(BTW: If your trip offers an option of flying over a glacier in a small plane--go for it! I remember it was expensive, but it's a truly awesome sight--a river of incredible aqua-colored ice and water-- and one of my best all-time visual memories.)

I haven't done a family cruise to Alaska (though I'd love to -- you're lucky to have such generous in-laws!), but I did take a two-week cruise there just with my mother a number of years ago. Unless you're going on one of the smaller adventure type cruises, you don't have to worry about cabin fever. The boats are huge, endlessly entertaining in themselves, and the scenery is spell-binding. Passengers generally spend very little time in their cabins. Most cruise lines now have lots of programs for kids, even all-day, staffed play areas and activities. The inside passage is protected from heavy seas and anyway, the boats are so big, that unless you are prone to motion sickness, I doubt that you'll notice the motion much until you get OFF the boat! (If you are prone to motion sickness, you'd better take plenty of whatever gets you through long car rides.) We went in early summer and were fascinated by the 20-hour long days. In terms of which cruise lines are better, my guess is the big ones (Princess, Holland America, Norwegian. etc.) are all pretty similar (for example, all will have large work-out facilities, running/walking tracks around the deck, multiple smallish pools) but you should be able to check their websites and brochures for more details on activities for children. Also, the Chronicle travel section does an edition on cruising once or twice a year that gives good summaries and comparisons. You should be able to get that from SFGate, the paper's website. Have fun!!

Cruise ship with toddler

Nov. 2001

Has anyone ever taken a cruise with their toddler? We've heard from some colleagues with families that it's a nice easy way to travel together. We were wondering, in particular, what people have done after the little one's bedtime. Have you had a sitter so that mom & dad can go out? Have you rigged some kind of long-range baby monitor so you can hear if your little one wakens without you (or is that a horrible idea)? Thanks in advance.

I loved our cruise with our toddler! I would do it again in a New York minute. We took our son, 13 months at the time, on a seven day cruise to Alaska a few years ago. It was wonderful. There were lots of things for all of us to do, particularly during the shore time, which was daily. We hiked, ran around local parks and so on. On the ship we explored all the different decks and observation areas. And our son loved running up and down the narrow halls.

The ship was a huge floating hotel. It had a special area for children, and although it was for older kids, there was a huge ballpit and other things for our son to do, which he loved. The staff was fantastic. Many of the people who work on cruise ships are foreigners who have left their family behind to spend months out of the year on these ships. They LOVE children. Our son was treated like a prince. They had a special place set for him during our dinner seating, complete with his own yogurt and everything they learned that he loved. He felt very special, as he was constantly attended to by everyone on the ship.

My husband and I tag-teamed for things like working out and stuff like that. We did go out at night a few times. The concierge helped us find a sitter -- one of the crew members who was off duty. Again, she had children of her own at home so she had a terrific time hanging out with our son. We felt very comfortable with her.

If you can swing it, I would try for a room with a balcony. They are solid plexiglass and completely safe. These rooms are a bit bigger, too. Of course they provide a portacrib if you need one.

Enjoy your trip! CWilson

We did the Disney cruise when our kid was 4 1/2 and 6 1/2 and it was great--a younger toddler might be a bit young. Cruises are a good way to be together with family and friends but also independent. The Disney cruises are expensive but totally geared to parent confidence and kid fun. They give you a beeper when your kid is in the kid club--she didn't want to leave when we went back an hour later to get her--disney everything from costumes to stories to crewmembers dressed up like the characters giving out autographs and hugs. They have a computer lab and lots of crafts. We didn't really think of ourselves as members of the cult of Disney, but we're still very favorably impressed. If your're going alone and not with other folks, I'd wait a year or two. If there are grandparents or aunts or someone else to help check in on your little darling to make sure she's happy in the kid club (or if you want an in room babysitter which is available) then you'd probably enjoy it but not get full benefit out of the disney specialty which is entertaining kids and letting the grownups have a break and vacation too. There are adult only areas as well, such as a remarkably sophisticated Italian restaurant, pool, deluxe spa, and nightclubby areas. It's an elegant deco looking ship that really keeps all ages happy. One weird thing is the lack of a casino--usually a feature of cruises. Lots of liquor, though. We'd go again. Chris (We took our daughter to Disneyland when she was 3 and her idea of a great time was playing with a wood box on Tom Sawyer's island. ) D L

We have taken our son on two cruise ships. The first time he was 1 1/2 and the second time he was 2 1/2. Depending upon the age of your child, you should find out at what age they allow the child to participate in the play room activities. When our son was under 2 years, he was not allowed in the child play area and we had him the entire time, without any time for ourselves. The second time, he would not stay in the play area and wanted to be with us. Luckily, we were with friends and took turns watching the children. Also, with a child, most cruise ships will not give a balcony cabin and will restrict you to an indoor cabin. I found both cruises to be very confining. Finally, both cruise lines that we were on did not provide individual baby-sitting. They only had group baby-sitting in the play area. Personally, our trips involving planes and hotels have been much more enjoyable. TABN

Taking 14-month-old on a cruise

May 2002

we are thinking of taking our 14 month old baby with us to a 4-day cruise to Mexico. We usually prepare fresh food for her, which is almost not possible to do during crusing. Any suggestion? Also, any precaution we need to take? Thanks. bobee

We took our 2 year old twins on an Alaskan Cruise on one of the Princess cruise ships. It was the best vacation since having the kids who are now 4. They have a great child care facility with lots of activities for little ones. Food was not really a problem. There is always fresh fruit, breads, yogurt, eggs, pancakes, hotdogs, spaghetti on so on. At the sit down dinners our waiters had apple juice waiting for our twins when we sat down. They were very attentative to our needs. We will definitely do a Princess cruise again in the future. You will have a great time! Karen