Lessons From A First Family Cruise
Read more about What we liked about our First Family Cruise
We were happily surprised by our experience taking our preschooler on a seven-day cruise to from New York to Bermuda—our first cruise and first family cruise. No trip is perfect and more recent NCL ships addressed some of the challenges we faced on our cruise. But it’s instructive to know what to look for when booking, especially on an older ship. Here is what I wish had been better on the Norwegian Dawn.
No room to roam
The Dawn had a ball pit and other toddler friendly play equipment, but it was stashed away in the kiddie camp area, which was a “parent-free zone.” I wasn’t allowed past the entry gate for even a minute to introduce Tiny Traveler, who was two- and-a-half at the time, to the counselors and acclimate her a little. By day two, TT had a lot of ya-yas to get out and was enthused about trying out the kid camp. Alas, during the hour we picked to send her, they were watching a video, not actively playing, and she only lasted about 25 minutes without us anyway.
I didn’t mind not having time to ourselves, but I do wish we had more options for active play. There was a conference room with some small toys that was meant for under-2s. No one minded we were there, but I didn’t relish the idea of spend my vacation stashed away in a conference room with no amenities for me. A “playground” by the kiddie pool had exactly one seesaw. There was room to add a slide and something to climb and these small additions would have been incredibly helpful.
Exiled to kiddie pool Siberia
My bigger frustration was with the swimming pools.
The adult pool was completely unsuitable for a non-swimming toddler; it was crowded and too deep even for adults to stand in. The kids’ wading pools had nothing to offer grown-ups—technically we weren’t even allowed in them, though we were required to be in the pool area with our kids. Moreover, the kids’ pool was nowhere near the adult pool, a bar, a waiter, or heck, even a water fountain.
Doing the usual parent tag-teaming was tough. Getting between the two pools required going up and down a few sets of stairs and walking the length of the ship. As a result, my husband and I each spent several hours at a time with our feet in a pool that was six feet wide, one foot deep and tricked out with a purple dinosaur slide, hoping the other would rescue them soon, or at least drop by with a beer.
No daiquiris by the dino pool
I hope Norwegian adds more parent-accessible play equipment, increases the flexibility in its services for very little kids and at the very least rethinks the kiddie pool refreshment situation.
A juice or water station nearby would help, of course, so you don’t have to drag your kids of out of the pool and off to the buffet dripping wet each time they get thirsty.
But more important, they should send a waiter down to the kids pool every so often. After all, if anyone deserves a frozen cocktail it’s the grown-ups spending their cruise afternoons in a wading pool with a dinosaur.