Thinking of taking your kids on a cruise for the first time? Think again! They're bound to hate it, leaving you trapped on a floating mega-resort for a week with no escape from the whining and complaints. Why would they enjoy a vacation with a free onboard camp, unlimited pizza and ice cream, later-than-usual bedtimes and a vast range of activities, games and water fun all in one place? Come on -- you know your kids better than that.
Need more convincing? Here are 7 reasons why we at Cruise Critic advocate NOT exposing your kids to a cruise.
Between the surfing, skydiving, rock climbing, scavenger hunts, dressing up, pool parties, Ping-Pong tournaments, quizzes, shows, games, football and basketball matches, bumper cars, roller disco, cartoon characters, Wii, Xbox, drawing, painting, character breakfasts and parades -- not to mention meeting lots of new friends -- your kids will be twiddling their thumbs and driving you crazy.
Will your kids really want to play in the splash pool or the water park, firing water jets at each other, going round and round the lazy river or the wave pool or speeding down water slides? No, of course they won't. They will also complain bitterly that you are sunbathing nearby instead of reminding them to do their schoolwork.
Thing is with cruise ships, you're always hard pressed to find enough food onboard. Search high and low, and you'll find both quantities and variety limited -- especially when it comes to ice cream and sweet treats onboard. In our experience, you'll be limited to the following options: the main buffet, main dining room(s), the specialty restaurants, room service, the poolside soft-serve machines and the candy stores -- such as Cherry on Top on Carnival cruise ships, and a dedicated candy store on the Boardwalk of Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships.
For a start, they'll be full of other kids. Then expect big sighs when they discover the giant TVs for gaming, with brand-new Wii and Xbox consoles. It'll get tougher for them when they meet the counselors who will be on hand to supervise play and organize games (both in the kids' club and on deck), dress-up parties, scavenger hunts and the end-of-cruise theater production. Teens are sure to go into a sulk when they discover that they have their own hangout with giant beanbags, a dance floor and DJ booth, video games and movies and light-touch supervision; the exclusive teen late-night parties and dances will likely put them over the edge.
When you bring your kids on a cruise they're so attached to you the whole time it's hard to meet anyone -- that is except when they are in the kids' club, which is more or less all day. And in the evenings, when you can pay a nominal hourly fee for them to stay in the kids' club and watch movies and eat popcorn under supervision. Oh and there's also when you go on a family-themed shore excursion, pick up the kids from the kids' club, attend the meet-and-greet on the first day or enjoy the family disco. Apart from those few times, you're basically stuck with them, and adult time is out of the question.
Kids today aren't happy unless they are in front of a screen. When on a cruise, they're unlikely to enjoy chocolate making with a master patissier and eating their creations afterward, going to the Palace of Knossos and learning about the minotaur or dressing up as a Roman gladiator and having a battle with their new friends in an arena in Rome. Beaches, boat rides, dolphin swims, train rides and aquariums also can't compete with the portable video games and smartphones waiting back in the cabin. Boring!
After the hell you've just been put through onboard, it is highly unlikely you'll want to book another cruise. Seriously, why would you after all that free child care, quality time together (both as a couple and as a family), excellent food, entertainment, culture and amazing experiences? You'd be much better off staying at home for your next vacation.
Did we fail to convince you to skip the family cruise? Read more of our family cruise articles to learn how to have a successful parents-and-kids trip, or at least make the best of a bad situation.
Updated September 21, 2017