By Wendy Irvine
VACATIONS AREN’T WHAT they used to
be. Back in the day, Dad would slide the whalesize Buick out of the carport at dark-thirty,
Mom would hustle the sleepy crew into the
back and the wagon would head to the relatives.
Today’s family rolls a little differently. Our
kids expect a screamingly fun break from busy
lives, and we need a “chillax” week ourselves.
The grandparents, who play hard with the best
of them, are delighted to join the fun. So, how
to get the whole family, including an easygoing
8-year-old, a grumpy teen and a thrill-seeking
college student, aboard the same trip? A solution waits at sea: cruising. While ocean liners
were long the domain of the wealthy and
retired, the newest ships have burst onto the
scene designed to blow every age and interest
right out of the water.
But how to assuage the skeptical? Maybe
Mom prefers to commune with nature versus
being “trapped” on a boat. Grandma, a workout devotee, has zero interest in scarfing her
way from port to port. And Grandpa lives to
kayak. The kids, as always, want a pool with
a slide (some things never change).
So, let’s take on these various resistances.
Trapped on a boat?
Not on today’s cruises. Generally, seven-day sailings make three stops: at two ports
and at a cruise line’s private island (if you’re in
the warm part of the planet). Still, on today’s
huge ships you could spend all seven days
aboard and never see everything.
For example, Royal Caribbean is an afford-
able cruise line that boasts the three largest ships
sailing our big blue marble: the Allure of the Seas,
the Oasis of the Seas and the Quantum of the
Seas. These three mega-ships are often called
floating cities, and for good reason: They offer
upscale shopping, Broadway musicals, surf sim-
ulators, Dream Works characters, a 3D movie
theater and a zillion restaurants of every stripe.
Such ships are often two or more ships in one,
given that the cruise belongs to families during
the bright daylight and is bequeathed to the
night owls from 9 p.m.-ish into the wee hours.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships, Norwegian
Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, sport
colossal water parks with five waterslides, a two-story Splash Academy for young children and a
Kids’ Aqua Park. Nickelodeon TV characters
make appearances, and the Entourage lounge
caters to teens.
Nature lovers score, thanks to cruise lines
offering excursions like humpback whale
sightings on a Princess cruise in Alaska (April
to November); swimming with dolphins and
viewing giant turtles on a Disney cruise in the
Grand Cayman Islands; beholding the action
of the Kilauea volcano with a Holland
America cruise in Hawaii; and seeing whales,
sea otters, bald eagles and (possibly) brown
bears on a Norwegian cruise in Alaska.
Sailing to the Caribbean? Plan to play at a
cruise line’s private island, where adventure
and/or relaxation abound. Kids will delight at
rafting on the translucent waters and meeting
characters on Disney’s Castaway Cay in the
Bahamas; adventure seekers will be wildly
impressed as they plunge down the world’s
longest over-water zip line at Royal Caribbean’s
Labadee resort in Haiti.
Most private-island shore excursions
tend to include snorkeling, scuba diving,
parasailing, petting stingrays, kayaking and
piloting a personal watercraft.
Just for adults
Even on the islands, those hoping to sink
into a good book can chill at the glittering
(and quiet) adults-only beach or melt into a
spa treatment in a private cabana. Princess
Cruises even owns a beach aptly titled Princess
Cays, where guests can loll on white- or pink-sand beaches. And most ships have adults-only areas, including pools, spas, restaurants
Something for everyone
An example of the multi-age approach is
crystal clear on Disney ships. Disney’s five-star experience is a dream for kids ages 4 to
12, with Disney shows and character appearances, but make no mistake: Disney assures a
luxury sailing for every age. Elaborate play-care (including an extra-fee nursery for
infants), a club for older kids and a sophisticated hangout for teens allow adults to enjoy
Disney’s stellar fitness room, opulent spa and
Do your homework
Is it that easy? Throw a dart at a ship
and everyone is elated? Not quite. To craft a
phenomenal experience, choose a line—and
a ship—with your family’s interests and ages
But whether the family chooses a long
road trip or modern cruising, no parent
escapes “He poked me!” and “She started it!”
Even cruise ships can’t solve everything. C
Wendy Irvine, a family-travel writer, lives with
her husband and twin 11-year-old boys in
The Costco Connection
Costco Travel offers many family-friendly
cruises. For details and to book, click “Travel”
at Costco.com or call 1-877-849-2730.
Family play, teen socializing and adult
relaxation are a few of the many offerings
that make cruising a trip for the ages.
Today’s ships are for the whole family