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12 Questions To Ask Before Booking A Cruise

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Cruising is an easy way to vacation with children, especially if you live in a city that’s an embarkation point. Whether you were an avid cruise-goer before you became a parent, or you doubted you’d ever go on a cruise in your life (guilty!), there are things you’ll want to find out before booking a family cruise. Here are some questions to ask your travel agent or cruise line rep before you make those pricey, but oh-so-worth-it cabin reservations.

12 Cruise Questions To Ask

Download and print these questions for later: 12 Cruise Questions printable
(Get our printable cruise packing list, too.)

family cruise ships often have watermarks
1. How far ahead do I need to book a trip if I need multiple rooms?

Being on separate corridors from traveling companions is a hassle on a big ship. If you’re traveling with extended family or kids who’ll get their own room, book while there is a good supply of cabins left, even it means forgoing last-minute savings.

2. What is the minimum age for babies?

Babies typically need to be 3 to 6 months old. The exact age will vary from company to company and even for different destinations within the same cruise line.

dining options are a plus on a family cruise
3. What food and drinks are included and excluded from the all-inclusive fare?

Soft drinks are often extra—look at packages carefully before you buy— and juices might only be available at breakfast (find out if you can pack some juice boxes if you want to avoid soda overload). Many people also bring water bottles on board that they and their kids can refill throughout the day.

Your cocktails, beer and wine will most likely be extra, too. Know that if you don’t finish a bottle of wine at dinner they can usually re-cork and label it so you can have it another night. If cocktails are your thing find out if there is a daily special; it’s usually the cheapest mixed drink.

4. What are the dining style options?

Some cruise lines are more structured than others when it comes to what time you dine, with whom and what you wear to dinner. Make sure there are plenty of casual options for those times when the kids won’t sit through a formal meal. Cruise companis increasingly want to “upwell,” which means their will be venues that are included and some that are an additional cost. Make sure the venue that are included provide enough variety and decide ahead whether you want to pay for supplementary experiences once or twice.

5. What activities are available for tweens and teens?

Look for activities they can do with other young people, as well as classes and demonstrations you can do together—if they want to. The recent trend is teen “club” rooms where parents and younger siblings are not allowed. They are usually dark and feature a lot of screens but if the staff on hand is good they will get the kids to interact and help solo travelers make some friends.  Ships also increasing have bigger thrill experiences like climbing walls, rope courses, zip lines and giant water slides, whicha adventurous teens will like.

6. Is babysitting available at night?

There are often evening activities until 10:00 or so for kids old enough to go to the kids club. If you have younger kids or want to party past midnight, you can usually book baby-sitting for a fee.  If a grown-up dinner or two is important to you, check ahead to find out the cost and availability.

a good kids club is important on a family cruise
7. What are the age limits for kids’ club activities?

Policies vary on accepting kids who are still in diapers. If they do accept them, expect a call to the kids club should your child need changing. The clubs are typically broken up into groups for preschoolers, younger and older school-age children, teens and tweens. Pay attention to age ranges for the various lines, especially if keeping siblings together is important. Increasingly cruise lines also have organized activity for under-2s and these are usually with a parent.

8. What’s a typical kids’ club schedule?

Preschoolers might expect some quiet time. But for school-age kids and up the counselors keep them busy with activities that are meant to lure them in. Make sure they offer the right mix of active and quiet play for your child.  Some clubs give the kids supper in the evening while other schedule drop-off to happen after families dine together.

a good family cruise has family entertainment
9. Are there parent-accessible play areas on the ship?

Parents are usually not allowed beyond the front desk of the kids club. Some newer ships include a play space and activities for parents who are traveling with under-2s, or they provide a time when these families have access to the kids club. Families can also play together with activities like evening pool parties, water slides, shuffle board, mini-golf, ice skating and giant chess sets.

10. Does the cruise line allow swim diapers in the kiddie pool?

Most cruise lines say they don’t allow swim diapers and have good hygiene reasons for doing so. Some lines are more strict and others more relaxed about enforcing this rule, but I would plan around not swimming in the pool with kids still in diapers. More and more ships have sprinklers for babies and toddlers who can’t go in the pool.

11. Where is the kiddie pool?

Pay attention to the ship diagrams on the Cruise Line’s website. And think about the age-ranges you need to please and keep near each other. Cruise lines are adding more splash pads, water slides and other pool-type amusements for kids, but offerings vary. The kids pool and splash pad might be right next to the main pool or they might be at opposite ends of the ship. Some older ships might not have wading pools at all.

12. What are the shows?

On our last cruise we got to see Rock of Ages. A real broadway show, for free. Score! They warned that the show was loud and had mature content, but some people still brought their kids. Those people wound up walking out a few minutes into the show. We got tickets for a night when Tiny Traveler wanted to go the kids club and we all enjoyed our own age-appropriate fun for the evening. On another night we all saw an acrobatics show that she loved. And we saw a dance review she could have gone to, but opted not to. Not everything on the ship is for every passenger and that includes the entertainment. Take a look at the shows ahead, see what the options are and talk about who in your family will want to see them so you can plan accordingly.

Read reviews, compare cruise lines and check fares at Cruise Direct.

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12 questions to ask before you book your first cruise or your fifth to know what to expect on board the ship you want for your family vacation. Free Printable list of essential questions.

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