How To Do a Nordic Cruise With Preschoolers
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If you want to enjoy a Nordic cruise, first, forget everything you know about cruising. Exchange sandy beaches, tropical drinks and flip-flops with fjords, Nordic legends and parkas. That’s exactly what our family enjoyed on our recent sail through the North Sea.
As a military family stationed in Germany, we have the unique opportunity to visit destinations we never thought possible, and just explored Norway and Denmark aboard the MSC Sinfonia. Our weeklong adventure started in Warnemünde, Germany. From there, we sailed to visit Bergen, Hellesylt/Geirainger and Flam, all in Norway. Our last destination was the lovely city of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Our 3- and 4-year-olds aren’t always cooperative for tours. Although the land excursions were enticing, we went our own way to save money and have some flexibility. Here were our five favorite things:
Nordic Cruise: Enjoying the fjords
We saw breathtaking fjords like the Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We sailed on blue water framed by lush green snow-capped mountains lined with rushing waterfalls.
Kids aren’t huge on scenery, of course, but we talked to our children about the glaciers and counted waterfalls, including the famous Seven Sisters. When the kids occasionally went to the kids’ club my husband and I enjoyed beers with a view in a serene setting on the top deck of our ship.
Nordic Cruise: Exploring Ports of Call
We got to visit some incredibly charming Nordic towns where we did a lot of window shopping. We enjoyed (the albeit touristy) stores filled with knitted sweaters, scarves with moose patterns, aurora borealis magnets, and horned Viking hats.
Trolls, those Nordic mythical creatures, are everywhere, from large statues to small figurines. My boys got excited each time they saw one and made a game out of spotting them.
Nordic Cruise: Playing in Nature
In most of the ports pristine nature was not far away. We hiked mountains, climbed trees, walked to waterfalls, and threw pebbles in streams. Three of the ports had playgrounds just as we exited the ship—perfect!
Nordic Cruise: Taking in History
In Bergen we explored the alleyways of the Hanseatic Wharf, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We ventured through the famous fish market, where my children made friends with the lobsters and crabs, unaware of their fates. We also explored the Bergenhus Fortress.
Nordic Cruise: Savoring Local Culture
In Copenhagen, we walked through the Amalienborg Palace Complex and enjoyed the site of multitudes of cyclists (the city is the bicycle capital of the world). We perused the Stroget shopping district where my kids loved the street performers, including a man with a calliope and a roller skating team. Lastly, we visite the Rosenborg Garden where the kids romped and we enjoyed a summer jazz festival.
For Older Kids:
If you’re traveling with older children, it’s possible to explore these incredible destinations more in-depth. Click the links for more information: Bergen | Hellesylt/Geirainger | Flam | Copenhagen | Warnemünde
MSC Cruises: The Good, the Bad and the Meltdowns
We’re not traditionally cruisers, but like a lot of parents we’ve discovered the value of a floating resort and the ease of visiting multiple destinations by ship. We love their service-member discount and that kids 11 and under sail free.
As with any cruise, personal space was an issue; we ended up falling asleep and waking up at the same time as our children. We typically find vacation rentals through * and missed all the room and privacy we’re accustomed to.
We tried to use the Mini Club but on several occasions one of the kids cried and I received the phone call to pick them up. According to HomeAway’s 2015 Kidfluencer Survey* 50% of U.S. kids say their favorite thing about vacation is being together with their family, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.
So as a family (sigh) we enjoyed the splash pad, arcade and mini golf, and attended diffent nightly performances that featured singers, dancers and acrobats.
The buffet offerings were delicious and we didn’t even mind the kids making ample use of the pizza and hamburger stations, which are open nearly 24 hours a day.
We were among only a handful of Americans on board, which we saw as a plus, but the staff spoke English, which was convenient and impressive. Overall, we look look forward to more family cruises with MSC.
A self-described “Jackie of All Trades,” Army wife Jackie Toops chronicles her experiences in Europe through American eyes. Born in Florida and stationed in Germany, the mother of two enjoys writing, travel, art, languages, slow cooking and peaceful parenting. She studied Interdisciplinary Humanities, Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management, and has overseen public relations for museums, galleries and universities. Currently she is a contributing author for Wall Street International Magazine, *guest blogger for HomeAway.com, and a recurring on-air guest with AFN Wiesbaden. She’s usually seen traversing Europe with her Canon, a coffee and two small children. Follow her on Twitter.