Summers and holidays are typically when everyone comes together for big family reunions. For those who want to take the show on the road (or the seas), a multigenerational cruise is hard to beat for value and variety. Cruise lines have been focusing on family-style perks, from suite cabins, to enhanced children's activities, to free or reduced fares for youngsters. Here are five reasons to book a cruise for your next trip with your extended family:
1. It can be a money-saver.
The inclusive nature of a cruise helps keep families on a budget. No one has to worry about who is going to pay for dinner or onboard activities, since meals, entertainment, and shipboard events typically are included in the cruise rate. Several cruise lines also have special promotions a few times a year that offer free cruises for children, while others even have permanent kids-sail-free polices. Crystal Cruises, for instance, offers free fares for those 17 and younger. MSC Cruises allows kids 11 and under to sail free, with reduced fares for those between 12 and 17.
2. There's plenty for youngsters to do.
Except for the luxury lines, cruise ships have many structured and supervised recreation programs and facilities for babies, tots, tweens, and teens. Carnival Cruise Lines, in addition to its Seuss at Sea program, has added Camp Ocean, a new themed children’s program on all of its ships. For older kids, Holland America offers teen-only night club events. (In some cases, babysitting fees are charged for little ones younger than five.)
3. Adults can relax while the kids are at play.
Many cruise ships today have adult-only outdoor areas that can seem like a vacation within a vacation. These are quiet places with dedicated pools, hot tubs, and bar service. Parents and grandparents can enjoy dinner at a specialty restaurant while the children are being entertained and supervised by kids' program staffers during the evening. Royal Caribbean International has a unique program called My Family Time Dining, where kids have dinner with the family and then are escorted to the children's area by youth program counselors. Adults are then free to linger over dessert and after-dinner drinks.
4. Family groups can qualify for discounts.
The minimum number of staterooms you need to book to qualify for a group rate differs with each cruise line, but virtually all of them offer group discounts along with additional perks. The Crystal Family Memories Program, for example, is offered for groups of at least six full-fare guests and includes extra benefits like shipboard credit. And -- good news for those with countless siblings and cousins -- the bigger the group, the more extras you'll enjoy.
5. It's easy to have an adventure together.
While in port, groups can explore together on family-friendly shore excursions. Paul Gauguin Cruises encourages parents to join their children on eco-excursions in French Polynesia as part of the line’s youth program, created by explorer and environmentalist Jean Michel Cousteau and his Oceans Future Society. Celebrity Cruises offers customized shore excursions so that families can explore destinations together. Tauck and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection both offer dedicated river cruise departures designed for families, with shore excursions tailored for shared adventures.